Unemployment doesn't just affect individuals; it can devastate entire families, too. Throughout America, an estimated 9 million people languish on the unemployment rolls. Their families suffer the financial and emotional consequences as the job search drags on for months — even years. …What can you do if unemployment knocks at your door? We've found that although the stress of unemployment has remained, these four things have helped our family. Perhaps they will help you, too.
- Take the opportunity to reflect and reassess. One positive outcome of Cameron's unemployment was his participation in a Christian career development program that helped him assess his God ordained gifts. We're convinced he'll be a more effective employee when he does land a job.
We've also re evaluated our family priorities and set new goals together. A closer look at what it takes to run our household deepened my husband's appreciation for me. And serving as the primary breadwinner opened my eyes to the pressures he faces.
My husband now recognizes the wisdom of having a home based business on the side. The next time he finds himself out of a job (unfortunately, statistics predict there will be a next time), he'll have something to fall back on. Eventually, we'd like to work together.
- Handle your children with care. Initially, we encouraged Leah to pray daily that Daddy would find a job. We removed the item from her prayer list after she pleaded earnestly with God to help her find a job "to take care of our family."
Then a close friend pointed out that whenever Leah requested something, I would respond, "When Daddy gets a job." Now, I give her a yes or no answer.
We've learned not to put life on hold. Rather, we're learning to live more simply. For example, I used to promise Leah that we would go to McDonald's "when Daddy gets a job." Now, we go all the time — but we eat at home first and order only a 59 cent ice cream cone. We can have just as much fun for less money. A little creativity can keep life normal for your children.
- Stay involved. Unemployment breeds isolation. Suddenly, you don't have any co workers, fellow carpoolers or lunch mates. Some formerly unemployed people avoid you because you bring back unpleasant memories; others fear it may be contagious. You should resist the temptation, however, to withdraw, even though socializing is awkward.
I remember one social situation given entirely to Cameron's job hunt. Although everyone meant well, we were embarrassed to hear such comments as "Did you try this?" or "When I was in that situation, this is what worked for me." We felt as though we had tried it all — and it wasn't working.
We are most encouraged by friends who understand our need to occasionally talk about our struggles, but who also know we are interested in other topics.
Of course it's often tempting to just sit home, but it's just as important to have some fun with your family. With a little investigation, we've found free or inexpensive activities at church and in our neighborhood.
- Keep things in perspective. One day when I was feeling particularly low, I received news that a friend's son had just died in a roller blading accident. That call certainly put things in perspective for me.
As we look around, we see far greater hardships than the loss of a job. When I focus on our blessings, I realize how much we have to be grateful for.
Although God hasn't delivered everything my family wants, He truly has provided for our needs. On many days, that thought keeps us going.
Reaching Out to Your Unemployed Friend
- Offer hope and encouragement, but guard against sounding "spiritually superior." This is a dark valley for your friend.
- Pray for and with the person daily. If you can't meet personally, you can pray over the phone.
- Remind your friend that unemployment is a reflection of current economic conditions not of personal worth.
- Seek opportunities to affirm that person's talents and positive attributes.
- Help him or her consider all the options, including launching a business from home, changing careers or working part time.
- Allow your friend to express his feelings, but don't encourage self pity. Your times together should leave him feeling uplifted and hopeful.
- Offer to hold him or her accountable to a specific job hunting schedule. It's often hard to stay motivated and organized without a friendly nudge.
- Talk about subjects other than unemployment.
- Provide opportunities for the family to relax and have fun. Invite them over or give them a gift certificate for dinner and a movie.
- Provide practical — but discreet — help, including food, clothing and finances.
- These suggestions are from Joanne Hawes, executive director of Maximum Potential, a non profit ministry reaching out to the unemployed and their families.