KEEPING ON TRACK

Sometimes it’s rough on families. That’s especially true when dads are no longer the breadwinners in their families because they’ve lost their jobs. You can feel lost and less important when you think you’re not providing the support your family needs. After all that’s what a father is supposed to do, right?

Little things can affect you in disproportionate ways. Something that wouldn’t ordinarily bother you now makes you feel irritable, hurt, or defensive.

Dealing With Job Loss

Bill will never forget when he lost his job many years ago. He felt like he’d faded into the landscape. He wondered if he’d ever get another job in his field. He seemed, somehow, less important, a bit resentful, and somewhat depressed.

Tom recalls vividly that period when he went out of the workforce to stay at home with his daughters and write (when he could). He was separated from the workplace and distant from professional colleagues, a bit isolated.

Even though Bill’s decision was thrust upon him and Tom’s was of his own making, both had similar feelings of being separated from the professional work world, struggling to bring in some income, and trying to maintain a belief in their own capabilities.

If you are out of work, this is an important time to realize the impact your attitude and actions have on your family. Teens are very observant, even if it doesn’t often seem so. And they learn by example. How we react to difficult times, the reserve we call upon to get us through, and the steps we take to move forward will not only help us but will make an important impression on our teen.

Taking The Right Steps

Losing a job often produces a loss of esteem that can be difficult for the entire family. Taking positive steps to re-engage with the work world will help. Try beginning an activity that takes you away from thoughts of yourself for a while. Whether this involves an exercise program, a sports activity, or a hobby, anything that gives you a bit of perspective and connects you with some other part of the world is helpful. You will need to pay a bit more attention to yourself during this time.

And don’t forget to spend time with your son or daughter. They still need you as much as ever even though they may not admit it. As they see you struggling, they can be reassured by your presence and what you do for them and with them.

By dads2dads

A Disruption in the Teen Age Passage

“My wife was very sick with cancer when our son was 13. Now that he is a sophomore in college, he’s moody and hard to talk to. He just doesn’t act like himself. What’s going on? Could it be some kind of delayed stage of development?”

Passage on Hold

That’s exactly what it sounds like to us. A parent’s serious illness can interrupt normal development. Rebellion is a regular part of teen years—a pulling away from parents to establish independence. But this rebellion can be thwarted, and the passage from childhood to adult put on hold, when a parent faces a life-threatening illness. Teens can’t develop the sense of self and personal identity that is critical to their growth.

Bill’s sons were in their early teens when their mother became ill. It interrupted the formative process. They became sad and worried about their mom. They couldn’t focus on themselves and couldn’t go through the normal separation process. It occurred later and Bill had the same reaction—what’s going on with this lack of communication? I thought we were out of the separation phase.

During adolescence, kids are exploring their independence and developing a sense of themselves. If they don’t have the stable environment they need, they can get stuck, remaining insecure and dependent. Sometimes kids feel guilty for a parent’s illness and have difficulty understanding they are not responsible. This can further complicate their development and keep them in between what psychologist Erik Erickson refers to as Psychosocial Stage 4 – obtaining a sense of competence, and Psychosocial Stage 5—becoming independent.

It’s Okay To Be Uncertain

Kids are often pressured to be “brave” and “responsible,” expected to take on more duties or care for other members of the family. They aren’t often told that it’s okay to feel sad and uncertain. When a parent becomes seriously ill, the kids need patience, understanding and a listening ear. Be sure to watch for problems with school work, sleeping issues, withdrawal, drug use or aggressive behavior. Seek help wherever you can get it—from the school, your church or privately so that your teen feels safe and supported.

Two resources we know of can help kids who are dealing with a parent who has a major illness.

KidsKonnected (http://kidskonnected.org/) provides counseling, camps and workshops for kids who have a parent with cancer. Two books have come from this project: Love Sick, written by teens and Moxie, written to help younger kids.

Gilda’s Club (http://www.gildasclub.org/) offers quality programs and activities for kids impacted by cancer. Teens can volunteer to help in Club programs as well.

No matter what they say, kids need a stable environment for growth. A parent’s illness shakes things up. It’s important for a father to be supportive to a spouse who is ill while providing as much consistency and security as possible for a son or daughter in the midst of the turmoil. This is another tough balancing act for parents.

 

 

By dads2dads