In a world infatuated with reality TV and anything Kardashian, it’s getting harder and harder to teach children and teens the difference between real life and fantasy. So what can a recently laid off parent do to explain to their kids that money will be tight, and that their dreams of buying new jeans, hockey equipment, or a flat screen TV, have to be put on hold – possibly indefinitely? The idea of talking with your kids about your layoff may be the last thing on your mind, but it could offer you the opportunity to ground them in today’s harsh realities. Teaching your kids about a layoff will help them understand the emotional and financial stress you are experiencing.
Communication is key after a layoff
You can kick yourself all you want after a layoff for not reading the early warning signs: the dropping oil prices or the closure of multiple factories in your hometown. But you know that this kind of behavior won’t do you much good, and equally important, it won’t reassure your kids that your financial situation will eventually improve once you start working again.
Instead of ignoring the problem, consider sharing with your children what you are experiencing emotionally as a result of the layoff
Children interpret the world as they see fit, whether you provide them with the truth or not. Instead of letting them wonder why you aren’t getting out of bed to go to work, reassure them that you were laid off and that this will likely cause you emotional and financial stress, but that these things happen – to no fault of your own. This will not make the problem disappear, but talking about it will reassure your kids that “being laid off is scary” and “this is what I am going to do about it”.
If after you speak with your children, they still feel anxious about the layoff, encourage them to speak with someone about their emotions. This could be a counsellor through your EFAP, since your children won’t have you acting as the go-between.
A layoff can offer you the opportunity to teach your children the difference between a want and a need
One of the most obvious challenges after a lay off is sudden lack of funds coming in to your household. This change affects everyone in some way, but is particularly challenging for younger children who would not necessarily understand the difference between a basic need and a want. Kids easily grasp the difference between being rich and poor and generally struggle with the concept of being somewhere in between. Instead of glossing over the issue, use this opportunity to compare the value of money spent on a food bill to the cost of a recent clothing purchase. Highlight the fact that the same amount of money could provide your family with food that you need versus buying a new pair of jeans that they want.
Getting laid off comes with many challenges and it’s a good time to speak with your kids about your stress level. It makes sense to include your children in your plans to get through this period as best as you can, and together. Encourage your kids to help out by being energy savers, doing their chores, or just offering you a hug. Not only will you feel better about it, but so will they.
By Talya Rotem