Daddy, Have You Lost Your Job?
“Daddy, why are you spending so much time at home now? You never used to be home this early? I heard you talking with Mummy. Haven’t you got a job anymore? Didn’t they like you Daddy? Does this mean we don’t have any money?”
“You’re very observant, aren’t you sweets. Mummy and I wanted to sit down with you tonight to explain a few things that have changed recently. Come over here, and I’ll tell you why I’ve been at home these last few weeks.”
“Ok Dad. Are you feeling ok? You've been a bit strange recently.”
“I’m feeling fine darling, this is just something that happens to people sometimes. I have stopped working with my company now – they weren’t doing very well, and I decided to look for a better job. It’s like when cows move onto a different field when there isn’t any more grass to eat. I am just deciding where to go next, and it might take some time.”
“Were they angry at you for leaving? Did you do something wrong?”
“We decided together that it would be better for me somewhere else. A lot of my friends left too. Who knows, maybe we will be working together in my next company? That would be fun, wouldn’t it! I need to spend time making sure that my next company is going to be the best one possible – I don’t want to rush and choose a bad one.”
“Will we have money though Dad? Can I still go to ballet on Saturdays?”
“They gave me some extra money when I left, but we might need to spend a little less on things until I find my new job. Ballet will stay though – you’ve got the recital soon! Nothing will really change, I’ll just be around a bit more for a while, and I’ll be able to play with you a lot more. That will be amazing, won’t it?”
“Yes, but Dad, I’m worried, what if you don’t find a job?”
“I’ll make sure that everything is fine. Don’t worry. Daddy’s clever and I’ll find something that was even better than the last one. This happens all the time, it’s perfectly normal. The most important thing is that we are together and that we are all healthy. Two of your friends are in the same situation. I won’t tell you who, but everyone gets through it.”
“Ok Dad, I love you, if I can help you, tell me, ok.”
“Of course. Turning off the television when you aren’t watching would be a good start! If you have any questions, ask anything you like. It’s the first time that this has happened, so we’ll get through it together, and I’ll soon find a new job. In the meantime, how about we go for a bike ride?”
This is an imaginary conversation with a six-year-old (I am a Dad of two great kids, who are thankfully slightly older and wiser). It is worth mentioning that explanations should be age appropriate as the reactions of the children will vary. Older children and teenagers can be given more detailed information, such as the department is restructuring, or the factory is moving out of the country. Primary school children may fear you have "done something wrong" and are being punished — much like being expelled from school. They may also have trouble understanding that this is not fair and that sometimes things happen that are not fair. If a child is much younger, simply being told that the business is closing and they won't need you anymore is probably enough.
Sharing your worries (to a certain extent) with your children, and emphasizing the importance of family over anything else will help them feel included and emotionally ‘in control.’ As long as you stay upbeat about the future, most children should react positively.
Being involved in family discussions empowers kids and reinforces their belief that you can get through this together. When you find a new job, your children will be proud of you and the part they played in helping their family through the crisis.
This is my very personal view – how would you react in such a situation?