I just lost my job: How am I going to tell my kids?

One of the responsibilities of a human resources professional is to let employees know that their job has been eliminated. It is seldom easy to do and often painful for the person who is hearing the news.

Just recently, I was involved in communicating a large layoff to employees at a Fortune 500 company. I sat with one woman after she had heard the news to tell her about the career transition services she could take advantage of. The woman was in shock and not ready to hear about transition services for her self. She said out loud several times, “How am I going to tell my kids this?”

When I asked her why she would not want to tell her kids, she said that her teenage son had been having a hard year in school and she did not want to upset him. She asked my advice.

Recently, my mother-in-law died. Losing a loved one and losing a job have similarities. Both involve losing something you love. Both involve change. I thought back to how my husband and I told our children that their grandmother had died. I remembered that we told them the truth, answered their questions and assured them that we would stay a strong family.

If you lose your job, here are some pointers for how to tell your children.

  1. First, take care of you. Take stock of the talents you have to offer another employer. Take stock of the good things you have in your life.
  2. If you have a “significant other” in your life, tell your partner before you tell your children.
  3. Together, tell the kids. Use simple language and short sentences. Tell the truth. “I want to tell you some news. Today, my job was eliminated. The company eliminated many jobs, including mine, because they needed to save money.”
  4. Anticipate your children’s concerns. Assure your children that they will be okay. “I am going to look for another job. Our family will be okay.”
  5. If you are worried about how you will survive financially, figure out how you can cut costs until you find another job.
  6. Include your children in cutting costs but let them know it will be temporary. If your child asks you to buy him or her something and you need to wait until your finances are in better shape, say, “We can buy this for you once I find another job, okay?”
  7. Let your children how you are feeling but also assure them that you will be okay. “I am upset that this happened but it has happened to many other people who have gone on and found other jobs. I will be fine.”
  8. Answer their questions honestly and simply.
  9. Allow your children to talk to their friends about this. Allow them to confide in others.
  10. Hug them.

Finally, realize that your children will be closely watching how you handle this challenge in your life. When they see you bounce back from a setback, it will give them confidence to do the same in their lives.

I told the woman I was counseling to tell her son the truth. To tell him how she was feeling. To tell him that she would be okay. To tell him that he would be okay. And to tell him that she loves him.

About the author
Judith Lindenberger has more than 15 years experience in human resources consulting and is recognized for her innovation and excellence. The Lindenberger Group, LLC supports in-house HR operations by helping you hire, assess, develop and retain the most talented employees quickly, successfully and cost-effectively. We also work with individuals to help you navigate your career. Visit our website at to learn why more individuals and employers are choosing us. Call us at 609.730.1049 or email us at