Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Just How Do You Tell Your Children You're Unemployed?

This blog originally appeared on AtlantaWomanMag.com.

When it comes to the economy, lately it feels like nothing but a barrage of bad news. And because of this ominous reality, I feel this topic, issue No. 1 for many people, requires a blog post from me to you. In just about every industry I'm aware of, layoffs are happening left and right. And usually the first thing that comes to a working mom's mind is "How do I tell my family?" And more specifically, how do you communicate this news to children?

We all know that prolonged changes in a child's routine can stress them out. So, for the few weeks or months you are job-hunting, take your child's schedule into consideration as you plan how to get back on your feet. Revising resumes, scheduling and going on interviews, making follow up phone calls; these are activities necessary to re-employment, but ones that are out of the norm in your family's life. And as we all know, kids pick up on the littlest things - our moods, changes in our routine, etc. They will sense that something is different, and while spending more time with Mom is always a good thing, it will need some careful explanation in order to make your child feel safe and secure.

In a recent post on Kaboose.com, Scott Reeves relates this professional advice from Carolyn Spigel, a licensed clinical social worker and career coach at New York-based Partners in Human Resources International. "Children are watching how you handle the situation. To feel safe, children need to hear you say unemployment is something that happens to many people at one point or another in a career," she says. "Normalize the transition for them by helping them understand that unemployment is a temporary situation - not a major disaster or parental weakness. Children need to see you handle the situation with confidence. This will help them learn that they, too, will be able to manage life's challenges."

Cindy Krischer Goodman emphasized age-appropriate honesty when telling children what unemployment means for the family in a recent MomsMiami.com post: "Susan Dandes, a child psychologist on the faculty at the University of Miami, says kids worry most about how the loss of income affects them. She suggests talking openly and using age-appropriate language.

"Little ones are happier with basic information. They want to know that they are going to eat tonight.'' Older kids might require more information, she says. "You might want to talk about the economy and global issues, as well as how it affects your family.''

It seems the running theme here is honesty, with a touch of simplification if necessary, and a whopping dollop of confidence and optimism that your family will get through this situation.

If you're in need of a few pointers on how to commence your job search, check out the video above from DailyMotion.com. It's an interview featuring Maggie Mistal, a career coach who appears weekly on Martha Stewart Living Radio:

On a side note: In addition to the usual job sites, MomCorps.com, which places a big emphasis on work-life balance, offers a number of resources for working mothers including job listings, articles, blogs and a resource guide.

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