Coping with redundancy if you have a family
When people are faced with redundancy there are two obvious impacts of financial concerns (debt) and anxiety about what the future holds. The third major impact can be a loss of identity or purpose, especially if the person has linked his or her perception of who they are to what they do. For example, when introduced to someone socially who asks, ‘What do you do?’ having to reply ‘I’m unemployed’ instead of ‘I’m a project manager’, can have a huge impact. When people lose their jobs, some of the feelings are similar to those of a bereavement.
Redundancy doesn’t just affect the person who has lost their job. The impact on a couple's relationship can be massive. It tends to expose any weaknesses in the relationship that were manageable when life was relatively stable.
So for example, if there are weaknesses in the area of sex, how the couple manage money, how the couple communicate, how they decide who does what – these areas can then develop into major problems. If it is the main wage earner that has lost their job, their role in the relationship and in the family has changed, and they may struggle to find other ways to feel needed and important.
Families are also affected by redundancy. The routine of a family changes when one person who has previously been out at work, is now at home more. This affects the way the family runs: from what happens at breakfast time to who puts the children to bed, from what is watched on TV, to who gets to go on the computer. Each person will have different expectations of what should happen and it is very easy for tensions to mount.
Redundancy also affects the wider family network. People are concerned, but the way they communicate that concern may add more pressure to the person who is trying to find work. Other members of the family may feel they have to help out financially, and this can cause lots of problems.
What are the impacts of redundancy?
Coping with redundancy
With all this to cope with, the person looking for work has to find the motivation and self-belief to apply for jobs, to deal with possible failures at interviews, find ways to be flexible and re-train, and somehow gear themselves up to keep on trying to find work. It can be very disheartening and lead to more feelings of low-self worth that impact the couple, the family, the wider family, etc.
But it’s not all bad: there are benefits too. Younger children in a family might enjoy more quality time with both parents. They may not have had much contact with the parent who was the main earner and out at work for long periods of time.
Older children might learn to value what they do have and re-evaluate their need to have the latest of everything. Learning how their parents manage difficult times and find strengths and new opportunities can be really useful to them.
The family as a whole may use the time to decide what it is they really want as a family – changing what they spend money on or what they do socially. It is widely believed that the Chinese word for crisis is composed of two characters that mean danger and opportunity, and it is often the case that what is initially viewed as a major crisis can bring new opportunities to discover more about yourself, each other and what you want for the future.
Talking through all these issues with a trained counsellor can help understand what is going on instead of feeling overwhelmed by everything, and can help re-motivate and find new ways to move forward.
Top tips when faced with job loss
- Don't panic.
- Talk to your partner/family/friends about how you feel.
- Protect your self-esteem by choosing to view the situation as a challenge rather than a problem.
- Face up to the financial implications and tackle them head-on – don’t ignore them and hope they will go away.
- Try to get yourself into a routine – let your job search/retraining become your new job and discipline yourself to go to work on getting work.
- Recognise how the impact of your job loss is affecting other people who are close to you and work together on working things out.
- Consider every possibility, and view each ‘failed attempt’ as a step closer to getting back into employment again.
- Look after yourself - allow yourself time to do things you enjoy, take care of your health and general wellbeing, keep up with your friendships.
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