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Leman: Kids can pitch in, help during job-loss woes

Question: I was recently laid off from a job I have held since before my children were born. My husband and I are struggling finding a balance between letting them know what’s going on but also not causing them to panic. Even if I find a job soon, I probably won’t be making as much money and we do have to cut back. They are 15, 12 and 8. Any advice?

Answer: This is a timely topic, as so many people are losing jobs.

I always remind parents that when you are discussing these very difficult topics with kids, you have to remember that you are the adult, and you don’t have to share all of the information, just some of the basics.

When mom or dad loses a job, that’s no secret. When mom, who used to go out the door at 7:15 is still in her jammies when the kid leaves for school at 8, they know. There is no way of hiding this, nor is it healthy to hide it.

The point you want to assure kids of is, “Honey, we’re going to be OK,” even though, parent, your heart is beating fast and your anxiety level is as high as it’s been since you first learned you were pregnant.

Kids can help. Rather than buy a lunch at school, they can make a lunch. They can help turn down the heat or monitor the air conditioning. They can be more careful with water usage in the home. There are all kinds of ways kids can contribute. They know they are helping and giving back to the family. I think that is healthy.

With kids who have all kinds of things, a reminder to parents that it isn’t the things that count. It’s the people. It’s the relationships. It’s the wise parent that knows the difference between what kids want and what they need.

Unfortunately many of us have brought our kids up to make them feel like they are the absolute center of the universe, and they have a sense of entitlement.

Just as adults are waking up to the reality of lost jobs, lost income, shrunken 401K plans, kids are going to wake up to that same reality.

But as with most things in life, as the parents handle it, so will the kid handle it.

If you handle it with a sense of confidence, they’re going to follow with that confidence.

While you may feel like the other shoe is about to drop and crush us all, you can’t be sharing that with your kids. You need to shield them from some of that stuff. But let them know you are in it together. You are the steadying force, even though you are a nervous Nellie on the inside. You’ve got to hold it together for the whole family.

Dr. Kevin Leman is a Tucson psychologist and author of more than 30 best-selling books, including “Have a New Kid by Friday.”
Photo by Tom Spitz Photography.

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