Reader Question: My husband recently lost his job and money is tight. I know I have been more irritable and on edge because of the financial stress we feel. Do kids pick up on this? And if so, how do we talk to them about what is happening? Our kids are ages five, seven and nine.
When the economy takes a down turn or jobs are lost, adults get anxious and often pass that anxiety on to their children. It is important to first deal with your anxiety.
Scripture teaches that God is our provider and will not abandon us in times of difficulty. We are to be anxious about nothing and not worry about tomorrow. This doesn’t mean we pretend things aren’t difficult, but rather that we remind ourselves where our help comes from—the Lord.
With this temporary loss of income, make sure you are doing what you can to keep spending low:
1) Live according to your means. Cut out any of the unnecessary expenses. Rethink your current expenses.
2) Tap into your emergency fund if you need to—this is why people put money away ahead of time.
3) Stay positive. It is not worth it to stay stressed. Stress takes a toll on the physical body and has to be managed. Stay active in looking for a job, but keep your mood positive knowing God is in control.
4 Tithe on whatever income continues to come in. Money is one area God asks us to test Him. Don’t cut back on your tithe if you are still making any money.
Once you are calm and reassured of God’s provision, talk to your children openly and honestly, but with reassurance and a plan. The most important thing to convey is that they will be taken care of and your family will make it through this difficult time. Job loss will mean less spending, but so much of what we spend money on is about wants and desires versus true need.
Make the explanation about tough economic times age-appropriate. Tell your children that daddy is looking for a new job. In the meantime, you will need to cut back on some of your wants versus needs. For example, we will not eat out as much, be more careful on buying things we don’t need, etc. These changes won’t be forever, but for a while. Younger kids simply need reassurance.
The nine year old may ask more questions. If so, talk about job changes and the importance of saving for unpredictable times. This is a wonderful opportunity to build faith and teach about God’s provisions. Children need to know that God promises to be with us and meet our needs. Also, pray as a family, giving thanks for what you do have and making your requests known to God. Gratitude is a powerful protector against stress.
In sum, put your trust in God, make wise decisions and be creative with family fun that doesn’t cost money.
Check out Dr. Linda Mintle’s latest book, Letting Go of Worry (Harvest House, 2011) and read more about job stress.