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Tough times: Turn financial challenges into opportunity

A job loss has an impact on the affected employee, but also has a ripple effect on family and friends, a Kansas State University specialist said.

"Changes in the economic climate affect marriage and family relationships," said Charlotte Shoup Olsen, Kansas State University Research and Extension family systems specialist.

"Personal values, and particularly ideas about saving, spending, the responsibility in providing for the family, and lifestyle, can impact how well a newly laid-off or down-sized employee may handle a change in employment," she said.

An individual raised in a thrifty household may draw from past experiences in making the immediate--and necessary--changes in the face of unemployment.

Does that mean that others, such as a young adult or parent raised in a home where everything was provided can't--or won't--fare as well?

"Not necessarily," Olsen said.

"Feeling hurt, angry or disappointed is normal, but blaming a newly laid-off or unemployed person, rather than changing economic times, is not likely to be productive--and can be harmful to relationships," Olsen said.

"Look forward. Exploring new opportunities can be therapeutic," she said.

Perhaps it is time to re-think a career, re-train or build the skills needed for new opportunities, said Olsen, who offered tips for weathering tough times:

--Acknowledge the change, but don't dwell on it.

--Take a business-like approach to financial management. Separate needs from wants, and focus on needs.

--Plan for the long haul, but be proactive in moving forward.

--Be willing to readjust your expectations. A new job may offer a lower salary and fewer benefits, but yet still be a new and enjoyable opportunity.

--Be up front with children and family members. Stick to the facts, and try to keep anger and emotion in check. While not planned as a teachable moment, parental ability to manage a job loss and the stress created from such a loss can teach children valuable life lessons.

--Limit discussions about money, particularly in front of children. A planned vacation may (or should) be put on hold, yet inexpensive outings to local attractions, a leisurely, family-style brunch on a Saturday morning or let's-make-a-pizza-night can nurture the family as a unit and help to reduce anxiety.

--Set aside couple time, as spouses and partners who nurture their relationship also nurture their family and provide a stronger base for family members.

--Try to maintain a sense of humor; laughing relieves stress--and tension.

--Be kind, supportive, respectful and willing to listen, without jumping in to finish a thought, idea or concern.

"Consider how you would like to be treated in the event of a job loss, and reach out, without judging or bossing family and friends who have been caught in the economic downturn," Olsen said.

While it's true that challenges can create opportunities, families that can pull together during difficult times often can overcome the immediate crisis and grow as they also become a stronger, more supportive unit, the family systems specialist said.

More tips for managing family relationships are available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices and on the Extension website: www.ksre.ksu.edu.

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