The psychological adjustment after losing a job is huge, says Jaime Dice, assistant professor of Child and Family Development at the University of Rhode Island, for anyone. With kids, it will be even tougher. But there are things parents and caregivers can do to help children deal with financial insecurity.
The important thing, says Dice, is to first think about ways to maintain children’s and teens’ routines as much as possible. Predictability helps young people feel safe, which reduces the risk that financial uncertainty or a big change like a caregiver’s job loss will disrupt their learning or psychological well-being.
Next, talk to your kids. Children younger than 12 don’t have a complex enough grasp of time to understand that a situation, such as a period of financial difficulty, is temporary. They will feel as though they have no control over their circumstances. Discuss job loss or economic difficulties in general terms and reassure them that you are taking steps to get the family through this tough time.
Youth 12 and older can be told about job loss in some detail, says Dice. Ask them to think about ways the family can save money; consider their suggestions about where you can cut back. Ask them to research fun, free family outings to trim your entertainment budget, for example. “Have the child be in on the challenge of maintaining the family,” advises Dice. That participation can help older kids and teens feel as though they have some control and make the situation less frightening.
You can find information about dealing with other types of family crises in the Your Family section of our site.