How To Cope When A Parent Loses Their Job, From Girls Who’ve Been Through It

How to make your mum and dad's lives a bit less shit, when they're having a horrible time...


by Stevie Martin |

Obviously when a parent loses their job, they’re the one who has to cope. It’s not, as it always has been, about you this time, so you’re going to have to step up and be an adult for once, all right?

Jeremy Clarkson’s daughter has just tweeted about his suspension, and while he hasn’t actually lost his job, and they’re totally financially stable (probably – we don’t have access to their bank details), and while her tweet was pretty jokey (‘Oh God, BBC please take him back... He’s started cooking...), it’s still hard when it happens.

A couple of years ago, my mum lost her job and it affected us all way more than I thought it would. My dad and her got annoyed at each other, me and my sister felt really down (and then guilty because it was literally nothing to do with us), we sent her a fruitbasket, I’d proofread her job applications as and when she sent them, but there was a cloud hanging over all of us.

Especially considering my mum is well-liked, and didn’t reportedly punch a producer over a dispute about catering.

Regardless of what happens, though, there are ways you can make everything a whole lot nicer. I spoke to a bunch of girls whose parents have either been made redundant, or lost their job, to see how they coped and what they did to make their parent’s lives at that point a little less shitter...

Call them way more

Especially if they’re alone. But even if they’ve got a great relationship with your other parent/loads of mates, it’s important to ring them three times more than you would normally. Because they might want to rant, they might want to talk it through, and they probably feel incredibly shit so having the human they birthed chatting to them will automatically make them feel better.

If your parents live together, still call them because there’s only so much ‘I’m sad because I have no job any more’ you can say to the person you live with until they get irritated. It feels good to rant at a fresh ear. Be a fresh ear.

**Make yourself completely financially dependent **

If you’re not already, that is. Obviously if you’re a student and your parents are helping you out with phone bills or whatever, and you actually can’t pay it, then that’s different – but where you can, extricate yourself from your parents’ pockets. And see it as a wake-up call to start saving, because the more financially comfortable you are, the less stressed your newly jobless parent will feel.

‘When my mum lost her job, suddenly I started saving. It was like a subconscious reaction. I’d been financially dependent for a while but still was living like zero wouldn’t actually mean zero,’ says Hannah, from Manchester.

‘It made my mum a lot happier to know I was taken care of, and that her not working didn’t affect me like it would have done a few years ago. I think there’s a lot of guilt when it comes to a parent losing their job, because they have to be the provider. Even when they’re not any more!’

**Don’t call them with your goddamn worries **

It’s best to not call your dad for a moan about your day, at least until things have settled down, because your problems are barely anything in comparison. Very shortly after my mum had lost her job, I called her in tears on my lunchbreak because my boyfriend wasn’t being attentive enough – or something equally banal, it was years ago now – and it was only halfway through the conversation I realised that she was only available to chat because she’d been sitting at home, alone, having been royally fucked over by a company she gave eight years to.

Worried that she was past it, and wouldn’t get another job. God, I felt like Captain Selfish of the HMS Dickhead. So don’t do that, unless something huge has happened.

Go home

Visit them, go round, book a Friday off work and do a long weekend. Sit around and watch TV with them. Don’t ever tell them you’re doing it because you want to cheer them up, though, because they’ll feel like a kid.

‘When my dad got laid off, me and my brother went home and my dad just said things like, “HAHA this is what it’ll be like when I’m old and you’re trying to put me in a home and I need looking after” jokes,’ said a friend of mine, who asked not to be named. ‘I think he felt bad that we were home to specifically look after him a bit. We weren’t, like, mothering him. We just wanted to make sure he wasn’t alone!’

**Help where you can **

My mum’s dyslexic, so I proofread all her CVs and job applications and reviewed any emails she was sending. My sister helped her set up a social media page, and I told her about LinkedIn. There are probably practical things you can help out with, whether the parent is suing the company’s ass and you’re a lawyer who can totally provide actual advice or you’re good at cooking so can go round and make loads of freeze-able meals while they’re focused on other things. Like sorting out their career.

Don’t suggest doing things that cost loads of money

Don’t suggest lavish meals out because they’ll be worried about money and either react by getting tense and feeling terrible for not being able to treat you, or vehemently pretending everything’s fine by demanding you go to a really expensive place. I’m almost certain I have a friend whose dad lost his job, and immediately bought a boat with the last of his savings. Despite the fact they lived nowhere near the sea. And I think they had to immediately sell it because it turned out he didn’t really like boats.

Point is, people react to suddenly not having the cash flow they’re used to, in weird ways. Like when it’s three days before payday and you don’t want to go into your overdraft, but you metaphorically pee into the wind and go on a blow-out anyway.

**Send them a cake **

It’s just a nice thing to do, isn’t it?

**Keep an eye out for signs of depression **

If they’ve lost interest in doing stuff they love, are constantly down, aren’t looking after themselves like they used to, then they might benefit from talking to someone. Although it’s nigh-on impossible to get a depressed person to see a doctor, it might be worth suggesting it.

Because it’s circumstantial – as in, the depression has set in because they don’t have a job – they might just need that extra boost to turn their jobhunt into a success.

Hannah found that her mum really receded into herself during the job hunt, and it wasn’t until she went to see someone that things started turning around: ‘I think it’s impossible to job hunt when you’re depressed, because you’re so much less productive,’ she says. ‘When my mum felt really down, having someone to talk to meant she felt like she was taking care of herself, and it gave her the confidence to keep applying. She did eventually get a job, but it wasn’t until she’d started taking citalopram.’

Drugs aren’t always the answer, though – a burst of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) might do the trick on its own, but research has found that it’s the combination of medication and CBT that has proven to be the most successful.

**Don’t send them job links **

As someone who was unemployed for a year, I can attest to the fact that this is the most annoying thing ever. Mainly because it implies you’re not job hunting well enough (an unemployed-against-their-will-person’s confidence is usually pretty low) and also they’re always invariably unsuitable because only you can tell the jobs that you want to apply for.

So send them pictures of pugs smiling, or suggest good career sites, but don’t send job vacancy links unless you’re 1000% sure it’s their dream job. OK?

**Don’t forget the other parent **

If your parents live together, and still like each other, it’ll be incredibly hard for the other parent who is currently acting as the main source of support. Chat to them too, let them rant a bit, understand that the now-unemployed parent might act like a dick for a bit because they’re frustrated, reassure them loads that it’ll blow over and be OK in the end.

Relationships come under strain when stuff like this happens, so make sure you’re there for both of them. Otherwise, you could end up with two really sad parents and nobody wants that. That’s the worst.

Like this? You might also be interested in...

Things To Buy To Make Living With Your Parents More Bearable

The Complications Of Living With Your Parents And Your Boyfriend

Ask An Adult: How Do I Cope When I Get Fired?

Follow Stevie on Twitter: @5tevieM

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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