An Open Letter To Teenagers With Unemployed Parents


So if you are reading this, it is likely that a friend, a relative or one of your parents has pointed this out to you. Do them, but mostly yourself, a favour and read the whole thing.

Having an unemployed parent can be extremely frustrating, scary and often embarrassing. It’s really stressful for you as well as your parent(s) and you’re in a pretty uncomfortable place caught in the middle of having to deal with that on top of just trying to grow up yourself. I mean you’re getting pressure to pick a career yourself at school, get good grades, then there’s the changes your body and mind are going through, dealing with peer pressure, testing your boundaries to see what you can get away with, and in short you are transitioning from a child to an adult. Then with all that going on, one or both of your parents is out of work, and that can really rock your world.

If you didn’t know it already, jobs are hard to come by for most people these days, because there’s a lot of people looking at the same time companies are closing up, laying people off and the economy is tight. And that can send you a mixed message. After all if you can be and do anything you put your mind to, why are mom and/or dad out of work? That would seem to indicate they aren’t really trying too hard.

So you might find that money is tight; maybe there isn’t as much to give you as there was in the past. Hard to understand how you are told to do without stuff yet they buy their cigarettes, or put gas in the car but not for you to joyride in. That’s hardly fair. It could be that the car is the one thing they need to use to look for work when you are at school. Maybe those cigarettes are helping them cope with the stress in their opinion, and while I agree their not healthy and intellectually buying them is senseless, it may be that stuff like that helps them cope.

So what can you do? Well find another adult to talk to about how you are feeling if you’re freaking out inside. Friends are cool, but they only have a perspective from being on the planet as long as you have. Get somebody with some wider perspective and experience. When you do, dump and unload all that ticks you off and ask some questions; whatever you’re worried about. Because losing a job is more common than it used to be, other people have gone through what you’re going through.

You can help if you want by giving your parent some space. That doesn’t mean staying out of the house 6 nights a week until 11 p.m. or later. Ease some pressure at home by asking what you can do to be helpful. What some parents would find helpful, others would rather do for themselves. Depending on your age, you can make supper once a week, offer to ask your parents interview questions so they can practice, maybe do some computer work for them if you keyboard faster. There might be things in your school Guidance Department or Library on looking for work etc. that would be helpful for them.

Instead of being angry, disappointed, stressed out and wondering how they could do this to you, if you are really smart you might learn from the whole thing and see how they deal with their unemployment should the same thing ever happen to you yourself. And this is why you might be angry, stressed and scared quite frankly. After all, there was a time your parents could do no wrong, and it may be that your image of your mom and/or dad is being challenged. This wasn’t supposed to happen to you…oh I mean them of course. It’s too close to home.

Well, since you are growing up, and trying to find your way, telling everybody you want to be treated as an adult, realize that unemployment is part of the adult world; a nasty part for most, but a part nonetheless. And it’s not always the fault of the unemployed person. Sure some get fired for their behaviour, but sometimes a person is out of work because the company is moving, the want fewer employees, the employees they had made too much money, or a company just wants their employees to look different to the public. What really matters in the end is that you give your mom or dad a break. They’ll be less stressed if they know you’re cutting them some slack. This isn’t about you and you need to realize that in case you think it is. They aren’t, “doing this to you”.

As long as you are in the school Library or Guidance Department, ask for help finding mock interview questions, information on dealing with unemployment, labour market trends. Bring home copies of the newspapers if they have them, tell a few people you can trust about your mom or dad’s unemployment, what they are qualified to do, and maybe they’ll keep their eyes and ears open should a job come up and tell you.

Bottom line? Unemployment is the reality your mom and/or dad have to deal with, and so do you. What’s happened has already happened. What really matters is what are YOU going to do about the things you can control, like your attitude, your stress, your own frustration? Even if they don’t show it, your opinion of your parents is of great significance to them. They want you to be proud of them and like them. During your teenage years, you might feel guilt about not really liking your parents so much and thinking they aren’t living up to your images of what they should be doing – and one of those things is working.

And if a parent pointed out this blog to you, get ready for the question they are going to ask you soon…”so, what do you think?” Do more than grunt, shrug, roll your eyes or speak in single syllables. Maybe it’s a good time to be honest and share some of those mixed up feelings you’ve got.

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2 thoughts on “An Open Letter To Teenagers With Unemployed Parents

  1. Good points. It’s also important for parents to be open with their kids (in an age-appropriate way) about the situation. They may have unrealistic fears (e.g. they might fear you’ll be immediately homeless) and are often very willing to help, such as finding ways to save money around the house.

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