Job Loss and the Affect on Children
Losing a job or steady income can affect the adult
who is no longer working, but also affects the children in the home. Often adults get so distracted in their own grief
over job loss that children's feelings, thoughts and concerns go unrecognized.
who lose work are often stressed, angry, disappointed and worried. They also worry about how to talk to their children about
this difficult topic.
Be patient, understanding and encourage kids
to ask questions.
want to spare their children the harsh reality, but it is always best to be honest. It is far worse for children to hear about
a parent losing a job from someone else. This only intensifies feelings of panic, anxiety, and anger.
Children will pick up signals in the home that something is wrong. When
they arent' told the truth, their imagination runs away and is far worse than the truth.
For Children Under 5: be simple and concrete. Children at this age are most concerned about their personal
safety and need assurance that they will be cared for. They need to know that the job loss was not their fault and they
have done nothing wrong.
For Children aged 6-9: Are concerned with right and wrong and may have trouble understanding that job loss may
be unfair. Provide information as they ask for it.
For Children aged 10-12: Can put facts together in more complicated ways and can understand everyday effects
of job loss. Can contribute ideas to budget planning.
For Teenagers: Capable of understanding the consequences of the job loss and can discuss issues in more detail.
They understand the more subtle effects as well. Can be helpful in problem solving. Fears that they won't be able to go to
college are common at this age. Discussion is important.
is scary for children. They depend on their parents or guardians for emotional security. When adults are tense, upset, and
inattentive, much of this feeling of security is gone. Communication is key when it comes to talking to children about job
loss and how it will affect them.
Change in income can mean lifestyle changes for the entire family. There is less money to spend, so it is important
to make decisions about spending what money is available. It also may mean a move to a new location to find employment, away
from friends and extended family, school and familiar routines.
There may be less family time. Also the other parent may now need to work a second
job, start work or pick up extra hours, which is more change.
"People who are not ashamed to express fears, anxieties, and sorrows and willing to seek
help from others, deal with crisis the most successfully. Children who see their parents exhibit this behavior will be more
likely to cope with stress as adults", according to Debbie Richardson, OSU, parenting specialist.
Maintain household routines as much as possible.
Keep major changes to a minimum, although some may
children by helping yourself first.
Recognize symptoms of stress including: sleeplessness, digestive disturbances, headaches, angry outbursts, appetite
Eat balanced meals
and get enough rest and exercise to discharge energy.
Help children to focus on the positive aspects of their lives.
Help them to see that they are not the only family affected and perhaps
they can talk with other families and find out how they are coping and what is helping them.
Reassure children by letting them know you're taking action and job hunting.
Involve children in helping
out at home, with babysitting, household chores, but don't make them think they are responsible for supporting the family.
Be a model for your children
on how to solve problems, how to deal with a crisis and how to make decisions. When they see you handle a situation with confidence
they learn that they too can handle lifes' challenges.
Assure kids that losing jobs affects many people and that it is a temporary situation, not
a major disaster.
depend on your children for emotional support. Sharing too much can cause undue stress in them.
Spend time together doing low-cost or no-cost activities.
Some families take this opportunity and spend quality family time together, that they did not have prior to the job
loss, Remember kids love down time with parents and just time to hang out. Those times can be priceless. They will remember
the time with you long after they will have forgotten about the job loss.
Remember that listening is as important as talking.
Everyone needs someone to listen to them, and children are no exception. Listen, to the children's thoughts and feelings
and respond with concern and understanding. This is crucial for families going through tough times.
Adapted from the NYU Child Study Center, NY, NY. and from the Oklahoma State University Coorperative Extension