Explaining Your Unemployment Situation to Your Children

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Maybe a job layoff just happened in your home, or maybe it's been a long road of frustration and heartache. Either way, at some point there should be discussion with your children about what's going on.

When my husband first found himself standing in the unemployment line, our girls were only about 1 and 4 years old. Given their age, we didn't really feel they'd get it, and we honestly didn't expect unemployment to go on and on and on for a total of three years. So we didn't talk to them about our situation.

Life went on day in and day out as normal. What they saw was daddy home every day. When my oldest asked what daddy's work was, we told her he was self-employed. It wasn't a lie. He had been working toward getting a home business up and running while also looking for work elsewhere. (We shared with her what had happened once he was back to work, because that caused confusion as well.)

We did have to explain the situation to my stepdaughter though. The difference? She was old enough to live on her own when we found out about the layoff. Our decision to move across country also greatly impacted her, as she would need to decide if she was staying behind or going with us.

She was still starting out in the young adult world too, and had been relying pretty heavily on support from us as she figured out this thing called life. So we had to let her know there were certain things she would need to start doing and paying for on her own.

Explaining Unemployment

As long as your children are old enough to understand money doesn't grow on trees in the backyard, they're old enough to be part of a conversation about what's happening with your unemployment situation.

Why discuss it?

  • Because you need to set an expectation for future spending and/or allowance. They need to know they can't just ask for money whenever they want to take off with friends and go to the movies. They need to know that gallon of milk in the fridge needs to stretch until next Tuesday.
  • Because it's valuable for our children to understand life isn't always smooth sailing. Everyone goes through hard seasons. Where do you draw your strength from in those tough times? How do you come together as a family and cope? ┬áThese are important lessons for them to watch and learn from.
  • Because they need to know everything will be okay. Even if you aren't 100% convinced of that yourself, by a certain age and point, your children will be able to see and hear what's going on. They'll know the job has dried up. They'll worry too.

What's the best way to explain things?

  1. Call a family meeting. Turn off the TV, electronics and music. Gather around on the sofa or at the dining room table.
  2. Explain what has happened, and what you're planning as a resolution. Discuss job possibilities you hope to pursue.
  3. Talk about living arrangements - especially if you see a need to move sometime in the future.
  4. Share your thoughts on future expenses and how this money hardship will affect each family member.
  5. Be willing to listen to and address different ideas and concerns from your children. Openly answer their questions. If you don't know the answer, simply say "I'm sorry, this is all upsetting to me as well, and right now I just don't know."
  6. Spend time praying together as a family. Pick an encouraging bible verse for everyone to memorize and meditate on in the coming weeks.
  7. End the meeting on a positive note. Talk about the blessings you all have and should be grateful for. Find something to laugh about. Speak words of encouragement, "God is already working on this. Everything will be okay." Give each other hugs.