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COVID-19: My parents lost their jobs

If you have a parent, guardian or caregiver who has lost their job, it could be making you feel upset and stressed too.

Teen looks in doorway at silhouette of parents talking at the table

Financial stress is one of the main causes of distress and conflict in families.

Many families live pay cheque to pay cheque and might struggle to make ends meet. 

If you find yourself on struggle street, especially due to job losses in your family, it’s normal to feel a range of emotions, including:

  • Fear/worry
  • Anger
  • Grief
  • Shame/embarrassment 

“People who are struggling financially can feel ashamed, like they aren’t good enough or even blame themselves for their situation. This might prevent them from asking for help.

Change is really hard without help, especially when you are already doing your best.

Every family deserves to be financially healthy. Getting help isn’t about blame or judgement, it’s about empowerment.”

– Amanda, Kids Helpline Counsellor

Your brain under stress

We all have basic needs for survival – like shelter, food and essential items. When it becomes a struggle to make ends meet, this triggers our brain’s stress response.

Our stress response was designed to help us:

  • Survive immediate physical danger (short-term response)
  • Survive starvation or a famine (long-term response)

 

As far as our brain is concerned, long lasting (or chronic) stress can trigger a famine survival response. This causes changes in our brain that can actually make us:

  • super focused on meeting our needs
  • hyper alert – extremely anxious or ‘jumpy’
  • unable to concentrate on other things, or spend a lot of time worrying
  • irritable or even more competitive – because part of your body’s survival response is to ensure we get ‘enough’ if resources are limited

Some practical coping ideas

Kids Helpline counsellors are not financial experts, so we can’t tell you how to budget or give you any financial advice. 

But we can refer you to other places and people that might be able to help.

Remember you aren’t alone – a lot of people living in Australia and around the world have also lost their jobs.

If your family is struggling financially, it’s important (and empowering) to get additional support:

  • Get practical support. You can find out what financial support is available here for people affected by the coronavirus pandemic.  
  • Connect with a financial expert. We all need help sometimes and it’s often helpful to get a second opinion and learn some new skills.
  • Be involved in any family financial/money planning. It’s great for your whole family to be committed, involved and tracking your progress together!
     

“Lots of people haven’t received a good financial education, through no fault of their own. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. There are lots of ways to learn more about money – talk to an expert, read books, listen to podcasts, watch shows. Knowledge is power.”

– Amanda, Kids Helpline Counsellor

Check out this episode of HRU?

Listen to our podcast tackling the issue of financial anxiety with Marty Smiley and Maggie O’Neill.

Why you want to buy things even when you can’t afford them

Our brains can’t always tell the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. 

That’s why it’s hard to want things you can’t have! When you achieve a ‘want’, your brain rewards you by releasing a feel-good chemical called dopamine.

Advertisers know all about this and they use a lot of tools to try and get you to spend money on things that are ‘wants’ rather than ‘needs’, which can make it hard to resist buying their products.

How to cope with financial stress

  • Find ‘dopamine hit’ rewards that don’t cost money. For example, eat a delicious homemade meal, learn a new skill, or connect with family, friends or a pet.
  • Remember that this is temporary. Your life won’t be like this forever.
  • Be aware of your mindset. Research has shown that people who believe they can improve their financial situation are more likely to overcome financial hurdles than those who feel powerless!
  • Focus on things you can control. For example, you can always be kind to your family.
  • Accept what you can’t change or control. You aren’t responsible for a parent losing their job and, realistically there may not be too much you can do to help financially at the moment.
  • Remember it’s normal to worry about your parents. The good news is that research has shown that when facing financial pressures, a lot of parents actually become more resilient (improve their ‘emotional strength’) as a result!
  • Talk to your family. Parents often try to protect their kids by not talking about money issues. Kids don’t want to add to their parent’s worries, so they worry alone. Most of the time, openly talking about your feelings is helpful for everyone.
  • Do the things that make life valuable. The best things in life are free – spend quality time with people you care about, have fun, laugh, have a great conversation, etc.
  • Remember to look after yourself. Self-care and try new coping strategies to help manage your stress.

Fighting in the family

Finance is one of the main reasons why families fight

If you find your family is experiencing more conflict than usual, this article has some strategies to help:

Ways to deal with conflict

Some families can experience family violence during financial hardship. If you are feeling unsafe at home, you can find information here:

What is abuse?

Kids Helpline is also here to support you.

If you can’t stop worrying about money, or your family is fighting, you can always talk to us.

Kids Helpline is available 24/7.

If you are struggling with quarantine and social distancing or are worried about novel coronavirus (COVID-19), you can give us a call, start a WebChat or send us an email today. We're here for you anytime and for any reason.
 

This content was last reviewed 08/04/2020

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