When Laura and Charley Gosse found themselves both out of work, their biggest concern was for their two young daughters.
The Gosses developed strategies for dealing with the mechanics of a two-person job hunt but wanted to make sure that they were careful to explain to their daughters what was happening without causing them anxiety.
"One of the hardest things was to tell them what happened and to explain to them the reasons why we're not doing anything," Laura Gosse said. "For example, there's a special place we go every summer ... and it's not something we feel comfortable doing right now. We're trying to put it into words that they understand but don't get scared about."
The issues multiplied for the Gosses, of McLean, Va., who are both struggling with unemployment. Nevertheless, even a single layoff and job search involves the entire family, said Donna Spellman, the director of Self Sufficiency Services at Family Centers of Greenwich, Conn. She advises clients to engage children at an appropriate developmental level.
"I think that parents have to be very careful not to make it a burden for the children — having the child understand and be engaged at whatever age level is appropriate."
That said, families can work together to share not only in the effort needed to get through lean times but also in future successes.
"No two families are the same," Spellman said, "but what we have seen a lot of our families do is take this very temporary ( situation) and involve the kids. Let them see it as an adventure that everyone in the family is going to get through. ( Say to them,) 'Right now we're going to do some special things together as a family; we're going to save some money — we're all going to help.' To put a positive spin on it keeps it so that when the success does come, it's everybody's success."
Spread the workload
Katy Piotrowski, a career counselor at the Career Solutions Group and author of “The Career Coward’s Guides,” said family members should be enlisted to aid in the job search.
“If your job search is truly a priority, reflect that in your behavior,” Piotrowski said. “Delegate chores to other family members so that you have the time to invest in your next career step. Remember, your advancement will benefit them also.”
Laura said she and her husband have also approached their situation as an opportunity to teach their children money sense. For example, a desired trip to McDonald's became a lesson in the value of a dollar and spending money where it makes the most sense.
"We just do a lot more things (now) that we probably wouldn't do otherwise," Laura said. "There are blessings in all of these things,” she said. “We play games at home, we did a kitchen garden, and we're growing vegetables. I like to think we've always been instilling values in them, but even more so now."