How to Talk to Children About Losing Your Job

mother comforting son

Jane Burnett via Ladders
Jane Burnett via Ladders
April 21, 2024 at 1:1AM UTC
Dealing with a layoff, or getting fired, can feel awful — which is why talking about it with your children can be an extremely sensitive situation. Here are a few tips to help you do it.

Pick the right words when talking to your kids

Dr. Michele Borba, a consultant, educational psychologist, and author, writes on her site that when talking to your children about having lost your job, you should “keep the explanation simple and age-appropriate.”
“Young children are literal so watch your terminology. ‘I lost my job,’ may make a kid wonder: ‘So why don’t you find it?’ ‘I was fired’ might mean someone is trying to shoot you. ‘I was let go’ could be construed as why your friends didn’t grab onto you tighter. Terms such as layoffs, recession, foreclosure, and downsizing confuse a teen. You might start with a question: ‘What have you heard?’ or a simple explanation: ‘I don’t have a job anymore so for a while we won’t have as much money to pay for things,'” she writes.

Be prepared – your children may not handle the news with “kid gloves”

Nancy Collamer, an author, career consultant, semi-retirement expert and speaker, told The Wall Street Journal in 2009 about this possibility.
“Parents assume their kids will be supportive after learning the news, but in reality, your child might not react in predictable ways, particularly if the financial impact on their lives will be sudden and severe. Some children respond with great empathy, but many get angry or shut down and say nothing. As much as you might be in need of comfort, don’t expect much sympathy from your child, at least not initially,” she told the publication.
Hopefully, this will make things easier at home. When looking for a new job, there are a few things to consider once its time to speak with a potential employer:
Don’t lie about being laid off in your next job interview
You might just dig yourself into a big hole.
Suzy Welch, a management author, co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and CNBC contributor, told the site that this is never a good idea.
“Don’t make up a story … I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Lying is never good,” she told CNBC. “Turn the conversation towards why you want to join the new company. … Explain why this job is so right for your skills, your values, and your career goals.”
… say this instead
The Harvard Business Review features commentary from John Lees, a speaker, broadcaster, career strategist in the UK, and author of How to Get a Job You Love, about how to properly discuss your layoff during a job interview.
“Once you’ve moved past your initial layoff story, work on crafting a simple explanation for your layoff that you can share with professional contacts and potential hiring managers, suggests Lees. Develop an ‘objective, short, and upbeat’ message that shows you’re ‘not a victim and you’re not stuck.’ Lees suggests saying something like: ‘My former company went through an extensive restructuring. I’ve been given an opportunity to rethink my career, and what I am looking for now is XYZ.’ ‘It’s a strong technique that moves you from past to present to future in only a couple of sentences,’ says Lees.”

This article originally appeared on Ladders.

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