The impact of unemployment on a man can be devastating. In my role as a child and adolescent crisis counselor, I see the effects of this very often as children act out in response to the dramatic changes in fathers staying at home. I am sure you see it in your churches as well. It is so important that families and churches support unemployed men, but too often the support isn’t there because men don’t want to talk about it or seem vulnerable. Silence only makes the emotional and relational rift grow and leaves a lot of uncertainty in the void. Here are some essentials to instill in couples to help “RAISE” men up:
R- Respect. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. … Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; – Eph 5:22, 25 KJV”. Biblical roles within the home do not have to change, even though functional roles will certainly change. To submit, as the scripture says, would be for the wife to arrange herself in an appropriate way under her husband’s leadership, in a supportive and cooperative way. To love as the scripture says, the husband is willing to do anything, to lay down his own life as Christ did, for his wife. This remains intact even though a husband-father may not be the breadwinner at the moment.
A- Affirm. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. – 1Jo 4:18 KJV” Conveying love and understanding is paramount. The family will be tempted to fear, but if the adults involved portray love and understanding, fear can be controlled and conquered. Listening is more important than talking. Children need to know they are being heard and considered seriously, and that means more than all the “don’t worry’s” you can say.
I- Initiate. Don’t let assumptions be made. Don’t let tasks go undone. Don’t leave it up to the rest of the family to figure out for themselves. Say what needs to be said. Get elbow-to-elbow on tasks, chores, and projects and get things done. Lead the way in work and fun.
S- Seek supports. It takes additional supports during times of stress in order to keep a family going. These supports may be spiritual, practical, informational, instrumental (transportation, material needs) or financial. We all use supports on a daily basis, but when trouble hits, we pull back from our supports because our need for them becomes apparent when our autonomy is threatened. Run to them, not away from them.
E- Example. Be the example in sacrifice. Children will have to do without some things; choose what you are going to cut back on or do without. Make cuts equal across the board. Don’t play favorites.
Here are some practical ways to apply these principles:
- When responsibilities change, the authority to make decisions must change hands as well. A man that has been used to making decisions at work will feel better about his role at home when he feels a level of confidence and autonomy. Helping couples communicate about the role changes and how to accomplish transitions will go a long way toward reducing the stress that couple experiences.
- Rather than demand compliance from children, especially older children and teenagers, a dad will find it more effective to get involved and do chores with his children. This is a chance for a dad to gain respect from his children and strengthen relationships that may have been neglected. Help dad brainstorm what he can do alongside his children and set concrete plans to do it.
- Everyone needs to have fun together. Enjoyment isn’t something that is reserved for only special times or when the children are well behaved, but a home should be filled with it. It is a prime time while dad is at home to plan some fun things with the children. Point this out to the families you see and recommend fun, inexpensive activities.
- Children need a certain amount of information about why dad is home in order to provide them with a level of certainty about the situation and to affirm dad in some of the new roles and responsibilities he will have in the family. However, children should be protected from taking on adult roles themselves. When parents need to talk about the grim reality of the situation, it should be done completely in private. When support is needed, you can provide that in your role as a pastor or counselor and allow the children to keep their proper place as children instead of being adult supports.
Most importantly, a marriage must stay strong in order for children to have certainty that they will be cared for and their home will remain intact. Fathers and mothers must pray together, work together, seek extra help as needed, be honest, open, and affirming of one another, particularly in front of the children. Address problems quickly and in private so a unified sense of faith and confidence in God can be presented to children.