Job Woes Exacting a Toll on Family Life


As the title of the New York Times article below reveals, when parents are under stress from a job loss their children also feel it. In this economy, unemployment is equally scary for both adults and children, and kids will pick up on the nonverbal cues and sense the stress. The article also cites a recent study from the the University of California, Davis, which “found that children in families where the head of the household had lost a job were 15 percent more likely to repeat a grade.” In an earlier study, Ariel Kalil, a University of Chicago professor of public policy, and Kathleen M. Ziol-Guest, of the Institute for Children and Poverty in New York, “found that adolescent children of low-income single mothers who endured unemployment had an increased chance of dropping out of school and showed declines in emotional well-being.”

Psychologists agree that being honest with children about a parent’s job loss is better than trying to hide it from them, but you also don’t want to overwhelm them with details. School psychologist Dr. Karen Mackler of the Lawrence Public Schools says, “Give them facts in doses they can handle. You do not want children thinking or feeling they are the cause of the stress. Reassure them that this is a temporary setback and that you will get through it as a family. Straightforward communication in times of stress will actually strengthen the family unit.”

Additionally, real opportunities exist for parents to model resiliency to their kids and show their ability to be creative with new opportunities, such as working with a career coach and volunteering while out of work. These are skills parents want their children to use when facing their own setbacks. Career coaching can help give parents the tools for being proactive in their job search and figuring out what the next best steps might be. Coaching techniques, which center around asking powerful questions, can also help parents connect with their children and form a closer bond as a family, which is key to surviving difficult times. Today many schools offer programs on coaching skills to help parents open the lines of communication with their kids. For more information about coaching, please visit and click on “coaching,” or call us toll free and we can let you know when we might be presenting at a school in your area offering parent sessions on coaching skills. Parents who are out of work need all the support we can give.

Job Woes Exacting a Toll on Family Life
New York Times
Published: November 11, 2009

THE WOODLANDS, Tex. — Paul Bachmuth’s 9-year-old daughter, Rebecca, began pulling out strands of her hair over the summer. His older child, Hannah, 12, has become noticeably angrier, more prone to throwing tantrums.

Initially, Mr. Bachmuth, 45, did not think his children were terribly affected when he lost his job nearly a year ago. But now he cannot ignore the mounting evidence.

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