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It's All About the Kids:a column by Dr. Janet McPeek


Preparing teens for working world



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January 08, 2014 - The New Year is here and many families are focusing on what they can do to make 2014 a prosperous year. Your teenager may be thinking about how he or she can earn money this year for clothing, leisure activities, electronics, spring break, or college tuition. Holding a job teaches independence and gives teens control over how they can spend their money.

As a parent, you may wonder if it is a good idea to let your teen work. For example, "Will it interfere with homework time?" "Will they be safe in the workplace?" "Will they have to give up sports and other afterschool activities?" These are all good questions. But don't let your concerns overshadow the benefits of a teenager getting real world work experience.

Employment opportunities provide great lessons for kids. Depending upon the type of job they land, teens can learn how to deal with the public, strengthen their teamwork and communication skills, develop a good work ethic, and add valuable experience to their resumes and college applications. They are able to gain valuable feedback from their bosses and customers. This represents a departure from their usual sources of feedback: parents and teachers. Additionally, by working in a particular industry, kids may discover the type of career they want to pursue.

Granted, there are some downsides to teens entering the work world. Parents need to be aware of the hours their teenager will be spending on the job and make sure it doesn't violate the number of work hours permitted by law. They should also make sure their teen is receiving a legitimate paycheck, instead of getting paid cash "under the table."

The reality is that it can be difficult for teens to find jobs due to limitations on the type of work they are allowed to do, and in some cases the teens are competing with adults for the same job openings. So, it may take some creative thinking to find the right job. For instance, check out employment opportunities at local businesses, golf courses, museums, parks, libraries, daycare centers, summer camps, grocery stores, and senior citizens homes. Whatever the choice, encourage your teenager to start looking for employment early.

The bottom line: Teens who are employed learn how to balance school and work time — a skill that will come in handy later in life when they are balancing competing commitments. Additionally, teens who hold jobs have less idle time and are less likely to get into trouble.

All in all, part-time employment can help your teen mature, become more reliable, and gain valuable skills.

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