Losing your job can be a difficult and overwhelming experience, especially when families are involved. But if you are laid off, clear communication with your loved ones is important, as it means everyone can share their concerns and ideas while any questions can be dealt with promptly and honestly.
Here are some practical tips on talking to your family about job loss to help adjust to your change in circumstances together — financially and emotionally.
Your spouse or partner
Telling your spouse or partner you’ve lost your job can be daunting, especially if you’re the primary breadwinner. Yet as much as you might want to shield them from any stress, talking openly, particularly when it comes to how you’re feeling, can help you support each other more effectively. Much of that support will likely be emotional, but remember, your spouse or partner may be able to offer some practical assistance too. Everything from helping you research new job opportunities to proofreading your resume.
If you find you need to make some short-term financial changes, try to do that together too. A good place to start is by creating a budget that separates your essential family costs, like a mortgage, groceries and medicines, from your discretionary ones, such as entertainment and eating out. Then decide where you can temporarily trim your spending without it having too major an impact on your family’s lifestyle, at least to begin with. While careful budgeting is important, it’s a good idea to balance it with the emotional impact of suddenly battening down the hatches overnight.
As with a spouse or partner, honesty is the best policy with your kids too — although how much detail you go into will, of course, depend on how old they are. Remember, with children, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Hard as it may be, try to be as calm and reassuring as possible, explaining that you have a plan and the family will be fine. Consider talking to them about the network of friends and relatives you have who could help if necessary.
Yet at the same time, don’t underplay the situation. Kids, particularly older ones, will see straight through overly positive claims about a swift return to normalcy, especially in the current climate. Any indication you’re hiding the true seriousness of what’s happening could mean their imaginations take over and they become even more concerned.
Similarly, older kids may worry about how you’re going to afford things like a family vacation, college expenses or their cell phone contract. Whether or not you need to make changes may come down to your financial situation and the length of time you’re unemployed. If possible, though, it’s a good idea to avoid immediately cancelling these kind of things as it will give everyone a chance to adjust to the change in circumstances more gradually.
If you have very young children, they may be excited to have you around more than usual. It’s a good idea to set some early ground rules for when you can spend time with them versus conducting your employment search. This can help avoid the risk of creating an unrealistic routine or adding to your own stress while you’re looking for a new job.
Friends and relatives
While transparency is key with your close family, you may understandably decide not to talk to other friends and relatives about losing your job. But if you do opt to discuss the situation with them, they will almost certainly want to help.
It may be a good idea to go into those conversations with an idea about how they can help. Supporting you through networking is a great example. After all, they may have a colleague or LinkedIn contact with the perfect role to fill. Likewise, they might have experienced similar challenges themselves, making them an empathetic confidant and/or a valuable source of advice.
In it together
Now more than ever, job loss is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. You may also wish to discuss the situation with a financial professional who can offer guidance on how to limit the impact on your family finances in the short, medium and long term.
And while losing your job can undoubtedly be difficult for you and your loved ones, the most important thing to remember is that you’re all in it together. No matter how long the situation goes on, try to keep talking with each other about how things are going. Then, when you do find a new job, make sure they’re the first people you celebrate with.