Employment Plus - Tips & Tools

Managing the Impact of Unemployment on the Whole Family

How unemployment can impact the whole family

Unemployment and financial instability not only impact on the individual but have wider implications for the whole family. Stress, uncertainty and financial worry can all be harmful to both couples and families, sometimes even leading to relationship breakdown. Yet, it is during periods of stress and worry, such as unemployment, that we are most in need of support from our partners and families. If you are facing unemployment or are currently out of work, it’s a good idea to be prepared and think about ways to maintain strong relationships and stay positive together.

Tips for maintaining good family relations

With a partner:

  • Take time as soon as possible to discuss the situation with your partner and agree on ways to cope with any financial difficulties you may face (Also see Living on a Budget and Eating Healthily on a Budget). It is also strongly advised that you acknowledge the period of potential stress that you’re facing and, as a couple, try to come up with strategies for how best to defuse conflicts that may arise as a result of unemployment stress.
  • Throughout the period of unemployment it is important to keep communicating as openly as possible. Research shows that a supportive, communicative relationship is an important protective factor against depression and other mental health disorders linked to unemployment.
  • Sometimes the unemployed partner may have feelings of guilt or self-blame associated with their joblessness. Try to foster a sense of mutual responsibility and accountability for making things work.
  • When times get tough, couples can help each other to focus on the positives. Try to help one another identify what makes things good on some days and less so on others. Plan ways together to maximise ‘good days’ by replicating positive, everyday activities or experiences, e.g. getting up at the same time and having breakfast together.
  • Set aside some time to do activities as a couple that you both enjoy, like going for a swim. Lots of ideas for cheap or free activities can be found on the internet.

With children:

  • Be as open as you can about your situation, keeping communication optimistic, but realistic.
  • Prepare children for any change in circumstances that impacts on family routine, e.g. one parent is at home more often. As far as possible, try to keep up family routines to maintain structure and stability, especially for young children.
  • If young children become aware that there is a ‘problem’, but are unable to understand the cause, they may feel responsible, so be prepared to explain explicitly that it is not their fault.
  • Set aside some time to do fun activities with the whole family.
  • Taking a proactive, problem-solving approach to the challenges of unemployment and financial insecurity can help to reduce negative impacts on the individual and the family. With older children, consider sitting down together to discuss and make plans based on your new financial realities, e.g. explain that there’s less money available for a holiday this year and brainstorm alternative ideas and suggestions together – this may even be a fun activity in itself!

Accessing further support

If you feel that unemployment is negatively affecting your relationship with your partner or your family, you may want to consider getting professional support such as family or couples counselling available through The Salvation Army.

Key points

  • The stress and worry associated with unemployment can create conflict between couples and in the family setting, negatively impacting on relationships and children’s well-being.
  • Maintaining good communications, setting aside time for fun activities and planning together strategies for dealing with problems that arise can help to prevent relationship and family breakdown.
  • Couples and families may want to access additional support such as counselling during particularly difficult times.
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