Parents can mask their fears about having enough money to cover for basic needs, but kids’ eyes and ears are sharp, noted Wendy Mogel of New York Times, a New York City-based newspaper. Talking about job loss requires difficult family conversations to help you adjust to the new expectations imposed by the crisis.
Having these conversations depends on your child’s age and temperament, as well as your new economic situation. Mogel said that parents struggle to find the right language and tone to tell the whole truth about your family’s situation. That is, without burdening their children with the responsibility of supporting their parents.
North Carolina Families Are Struggling In the Pandemic
ParentsTogether, a news and information website that helps all families thrive, surveyed their members in North Carolina on May 4 about how they are doing economically during the pandemic, reported Raz Pollex. 424 participants have kids below the age of 18 at home and 209 are grandparents.
62% felt that their family is struggling. 59.31% said they had to make tradeoffs between paying for basics like rent or utilities or health or food due to loss of income, versus 40.69% of those who said no.
When asked if they are worried about covering basic costs if things don’t improve, 10.70% said “immediately,” 11.08% said “in the next two weeks,” 21.81% said “in the next month,” 20.58% said “in three months.” Only 26.82% said they were not concerned about covering basic costs.
When asked if the respondents applied for unemployment, 61.75% said yes and 38.25% said no. 48% of those who lost income said they are not eligible for unemployment while another 30% said they don’t know if they are eligible or not. 60% of those who don’t know did not apply.
When asked how being paid $350/week would affect their families if they were unemployed and had to collect unemployment, 18.88% said they could reasonably get by on that amount. 20.65% said they could get by but they would have to slash their budget in some areas and 27.38% said they would struggle a lot paying their rent/mortgage, grocery bills, and other essentials. 33.08% answered that it would be impossible for them to pay for both rent/o and grocery bills.
Regarding the question of supporting opening up the economy before it is safe to do so, 58.20% said they need to wait as long as it takes to open things up again to save lives, even if it affects the economy. 32.51% said they should start opening up the economy slowly soon and see how it affects the virus’s spread. 3.32% said they need to open businesses, events, churches, and schools up again even if it would cause more deaths and 5.97% said they don’t know.
How to Converse With Your Child About Job Loss
1. Be Attentive to Your Feelings
Don’t underestimate the situation you and the rest of the world are in, including the psychological impact of economic uncertainty. Treat yourself with respect, assuring your child that you will remain a devoted and attentive parent amid the crisis.
You may feel a maelstrom of feelings ranging from shame to terror about prolonged unemployment and about the possibility of getting sick. Loss of identity may be expected if you (or your partner) have lost your job. If you have retained your health benefits, you can consult a therapist via telemedicine. You can also join an online parent support group.
2. Reassure Your Children and Speak the Truth
Stay calm and curious about what your child may ask. It is difficult to talk about finances to your child, but this conversation will help establish the foundation of being an “askable” parent. When talking to your child, you will have to decide how much to share, which depends on your child’s age and ability to grasp bad news.
If you have a preschooler, inform them that you are not working with the same people or at the same place you used to work prior to the pandemic. You can also tell them what you are doing right now.
If you have an older child, they will be eager to know how unemployment will affect their lives. Hence, expect questions such as “Will we be homeless soon?” and “Can we still order dinner?” Don’t be dramatic and reassure them about the things that will stay the same or change. Tell them that you are willing to share news with them and answer their queries.
Be frank with your teen about your financial situation and how about how you are working things out in a collegiate manner. Avoid demeaning ideas from your teen such as starting a YouTube channel. Be sure to take their suggestions with an open mind.
3. Admit That You Don’t Have All the Answers
During these trying times, your child wants to know whether you can stay in the same line of work or how long it will take for you to get another job, said Amy Morin, LCSW of Verywell Family, a website that publishes content about parenting, pregnancy, and kids’ health.
Acknowledge their questions and say, “I don’t know the answer to that right now, but I’m glad you asked. It’s a good question.” However, avoid saying that you will never find a job that pays good or any negative predictions about the situation. Again, it is recommended to focus on what you are trying to do to deal with job loss.
4. Respect Your Child’s Disappointments
Respect their disappointment without being defensive. Your child may get angry at you or give you the cold shoulder. It’s not your fault that the pandemic caused mass unemployment. Take your little one’s disappointment as a sign that they trust you being strong enough to absorb their disappointments.
5. Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
Don’t make wishful predictions like allowing your child to go to camp for eight weeks the following summer. It is possible but we don’t know when everything will go back to normal. Be honest and honor promises you can keep. If your child insists on going to camp (if it’s open), for example, you can say that you will not be able to pay for it. However, you can tell your child that they can help you pitch a tent in the backyard and sleep there.
No one knows when things will go back to normal. For kids, that would mean missing out on camping and other leisurely activities. The pandemic also caused massive job loss, causing parents to reduce their spending. Parents should be honest about it and acknowledge their child’s feelings.