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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

How to Help Your Spouse After a Job Loss

Last week I was asked by the FOX 4 Good Day TV show to discuss ways to help your spouse redefine his/her household role after a job loss. If you missed the show, click here to watch the TV segment. A big change like a job loss or career change can derail you and take the whole family out of the Smart Zone. Losing a job is an ego buster and it's up to both you and your spouse to support each other. If the job loss is unexpected you both may experience symptoms of grief - similar to a death in the family where you feel angry, depressed or are in denial. The faster you ask "What can we do now?" instead of "Why did this happen?" the better off you and your family will be. Use these Smart Moves to help your spouse after a job loss:

  • ASAP. The out of work spouse should immediately check with their HR/benefits department to determine severance options, health insurance extensions and other benefits available their company offers as well as file for unemployment. This way, the out of work spouse is still contributing to the household income.

  • Keep a routine. If your spouse is not used to being at home he/she may not know how to handle the down time and feel they have no value. Help your spouse resist the urge to sleep in or hang around in pajamas all day. A little down time after the job loss is fine - and probably necessary. But not for longer than a week or so. Establish duties that the out of work spouse can do to help the household run better: grocery shopping, laundry, kids' activities, etc.

  • Don't belittle. If the out of work spouse is taking on a new responsibility like grocery shopping, for example - let him/her do it their own way. Don't micromanage.

  • Know that roles will change. Accept that the out of work spouse will have a new role in your home. While they may not be contributing monetarily their job loss does not reduce their importance as a family member. Talk openly about the change in roles rather than letting it be the white elephant in the middle of the room.

Keep communication, trust and respect for each other in check. Many people fear their spouse may leave them when they lose their job.

  • Kids will figure it out so help the out of work parent communicate how he/she is excited to be spending more time with them for a while. Children need to be assured that they will be loved and cared for. Let the kids help teach the parent some new duties - like where soccer practice is held, their favorite breakfast foods to buy, etc.

  • Let the kids help. Let your kids offer their suggestions for ways to save money and how they can help out with the family situation. They could forego their allowance for a period of time or help earn their own spending money by babysitting or mowing lawns.

The best thing you can do is allow your spouse to maintain his/her dignity. Don't broadcast to everyone you know about the job loss (family and close friends are okay) and only speak highly about your spouse to others.

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