How to support your unemployed child
In 2020, the unemployment rate in South Africa jumped by 30%. With 7.2 million unemployed people in the Rainbow Nation, it’s possible that your child is one of them.
Given the challenging situation we’re all in, there is no shame in not having a job. But, if you’re the one job-hunting for months without success, you can start to doubt if you’re really good enough.
As a typical well-meaning parent, you will naturally try to give advice, support and help. But your child may not feel the same way you do. As a parent, if you want to be truly supportive of your child (who is also now their own adult), here are some Do’s and Don’ts:
- Don’t keep asking about the job-search. Your child will naturally share any news they have with you. If you keep inquiring they may begin to feel you don’t think they’re trying hard enough.
- Don’t offer advice that you weren’t asked for. The job-scene is constantly changing. And, if your child is not in the same profession as you, chances are they might even be able to give you advice about how to find a job! Parents can often feel that they understand the world better, because of their life experience. In truth, though, you may be unaware how much more your child already knows about their career-path and options. Let them ask for advice, if they feel they need it.
- Don’t share your anxiety about bills. Sometimes we offer our opinion and our advice, not because we want to help, but because we feel anxious. Are you asking about your child’s bank-balance, bills, or asking,” …have you looked at x yet?” because you feel anxious? Or are you inquiring because you truly know they need your input? If you feel anxious, you will just make them more anxious – and no one can think clearly when they are panicked!
- Don’t push your child into a career direction that feels better to you. Many parents may have ideas about certain jobs that are ‘better’, ‘more secure’ or ‘more stable’. If your kids have gone in a different direction than what you imagined, you may feel that this is their opportunity to ‘get back on track’. Be honest with yourself though: Will your child feel supported, or resentful, if they end up simply complying with your advice? As adults they have to forge their own paths, no matter how hard it may feel to us as parents.
- Don’t push your child to get a different education. It’s tempting to think that a different education will give someone more security in their job. In reality though, no job is a 100% secure. Even the most seemingly stable incomes can be torn from under our feet. Before being too hasty to offer other ideas of what your child can study, make sure they actually want
- Remind yourself that your child is an adult. This is a tough transition for many parents to make, but one that can truly enhance and deepen your relationship. Treat your child like an expert in their own life, and approach them in the same way you would a friend or colleague. They will respect you, and they will feel more confident in their own skills and wisdom, if you show them that you have confidence in their skills & wisdom.
- Always ask before telling. For the first 18 years of life, parents get so used to telling kids to “Do this” and “Don’t do that”, that they struggle to shake the habit when their kids grow up. In reality, though, your children have become their own adults under your nose. Now is your opportunity to let them be just that. So, before jumping in with advice, or support – even financial support – ask them. Some great questions you can try out, include:
“Do you want my advice on this, or are you okay?”;
“How can I support you while you job-hunt in a way, that won’t feel intrusive?”;
“What is the best thing I can do for you right now, while you figure things out for yourself?”
“If there’s anything you need from me, would you let me know?”
- Focus on effort and progress, not just successes. If you go to interview after interview, with no success, it can get very demotivating. Instead of pushing your child harder, help them focus on their progress. Sometimes, by just focusing on what you have done, and where you have made some headway, you can acknowledge that you are making progress. You can be their best cheerleader, when they struggle to be that for themselves.
- When you help, the indirect approach is probably best. Even though your kids are now masters of their own lives, you still have a lot to offer. It may just not be that obvious. Some kids benefit from parents who help them in indirect ways, like looking after the grandkids, helping out around the house, or taking them out for a good night to distract from the gruelling job-hunt. Or, if they’re living with you, your child may benefit from some space and time to do their work, instead of direct involvement from you. By helping in these indirect ways, your child may feel a lot more energised to focus on the job-hunt itself, rather than having you interfere with that part of their process.
- Find your own support, to care of your own fears. It can be hard to see your child suffer. As parents, we lie awake at night not with our own worries, but with the worries of our children. Find a friend, counsellor or coach to talk to about how you feel. If you don’t, you will inevitably project your anxieties onto your child, and they will have to carry their own fears and By being calm, encouraging and supportive yourself, you’ll help your child feel emotionally more able to push through this job-hunt marathon, until they cross the finishing line.
Although this is a trying time for your child, and this places incredible strain on the rest of their family members, it is also a great opportunity to forge new, lasting bonds, and cultivate a supportive relationship that can last a lifetime.
Interview ‘standout’ techniques
Here’s outstanding advice for youth on building confidence to answer those difficult employment interview questions. If you enjoy Dan Lock’s advice in this clip watch his full series.
START WATCHING HERE: