Talking To Your Kids About Unemployment

Associated Press

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May 19, 2009

Greg Cramer was hoping his new job's higher salary would make life a little easier. But just a few months after starting as a plant manager last year, he was laid off.

The Toledo, Ohio, dad might still be jobless if he hadn't decided to buy his own business, which links manufacturers and companies looking to get products made.

At home, the family had to start living on unemployment checks that provided about 20 percent of his paycheck.

At first, his teenage daughters, Renae and Emily, were worried. Would they have to move and give up their friends? Could they still plan on going to college?

"My wife and I explained to them we are frugal people, we have a savings account, we will survive this," he said. "We had some adjustments here and there about attitudes, but continued to teach them that tough times fall on everyone."

The experience brought to life a debate that parents are having as the recession grinds on and unemployment becomes more common: Should you tell the kids that you lost your job? And should they be involved in making decisions about how the family spends money while they're out of work?

A lot of parents don't want to burden their children with concerns they can't do anything about, said Jerry Shapiro, a psychologist and professor of counseling psychology at Santa Clara University in California. But if the income loss means lifestyle changes, he said, it makes sense to include the kids.

"If the parents can't afford certain things [for the kids] they need to tell them," Shapiro said. "Children are remarkably adaptable."

Make sure the information given to the kids is age-appropriate. "Talking about a world economic crisis is meaningless to children," Shapiro said. "Everything has to be geared to the child's age."


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