Some studies show that teens who work part-time jobs have lower grades and higher risk for issues like alcohol and drug abuse. Other studies show that early employment leads to higher graduation rates and increased lifetime earnings. What’s a parent to believe?
It turns out that there’s some truth on both sides of the argument, and the choices you make can help determine the outcomes. Read this before your child asks you if they can mow lawns or work at the mall.
Managing the Downside of Part-Time Work for Teens
1. Limit the hours. Most of the negative outcomes for teens who work are associated with putting in more than 15 hours a week. As long as you stick to 15 hours per week or less during the school year, you can eliminate most of the risks for a decline in school performance or forming questionable new friendships.
2. Write out a budget. Another potential drawback is the tendency for teens to pick up extravagant spending habits that will be tough to break when they’re in college or settling into their first home. Make a plan for how to use their paycheck responsibly.
3. Emphasize safety. Some jobs pose more hazards than others. You may want to give your approval for tutoring and counseling at summer camp rather than delivery or construction work.
4. Research labor laws. Federal and state laws regulate the hours and type of work that minors can do. Ensure you follow the rules for work permits and other requirements.
5. Visit the workplace. Take a first-hand look at where your son or daughter will be employed. Introduce yourself to their new boss. Observe their co-workers.
6. Put academics first. Remind your teen that completing their education is their primary job. Agree in advance that being permitted to work is conditional upon maintaining their grades and participating in school activities.
Maximizing the Benefits of Part-Time Work for Teens
1. Develop soft skills. Dealing with a demanding boss and dissatisfied customers instills qualities like punctuality and patience. It’s a good complement to classroom education.
2. Save for college. While your teen may want to keep some of their paycheck for buying burgers and music, encourage them to put aside money for something more lasting. The funds will come in handy as tuition costs rise.
3. Review career plans. If possible, consider a job that aligns with your child’s interests in sports medicine or ethnic jewelry. They’ll feel more motivated and may even find a mentor.
4. Practice job hunting. Just looking for a job is valuable training. Your child can practice browsing job boards, filling out applications, and interviewing before they face the financial pressures that come with living on their own.
5. Gather references. Wherever your sons or daughters work, their supervisors can provide positive recommendations for college applications and future jobs. These early contacts can be the beginning of your child’s professional network.
6. Provide supervision. Are you concerned about what your teen is doing in the hours between school letting out and your arriving home from work? A shift at the local coffee shop will fill that time.
7. Teach diversity. In spite of all the benefits of employment, fewer youths are in the workforce today. Just 33% of teens had a summer job in 2009 compared to 52% in 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor. A part time job can be a unique opportunity to introduce teens to a wide variety of citizens from different backgrounds.
As a parent, you can guide your child towards making their first work experience a rewarding investment in their future. Hold down the number of hours and discuss responsible budgeting so they’ll be prepared for academic and career success.