Should your teen start working?

Getting a job is a rite of passage into adulthood, much like getting your driver’s license. As teenagers’ lives have become busier due to more commitments, when a teen should get his or her first job has increasingly become a matter of debate.

These commitments include school, sports, extracurricular activities, friends and family. While some parents believe every teen must have a job as early as possible, others feel the additional weight of responsibility difficult to handle.

Whether your teen should start working is a personal decision you and your child can discuss to determine if it is the right choice. Some common teen jobs, such as occasionally babysitting, are relatively low commitment, while jobs in a restaurant require more structure and discipline. You and your teen should make sure to weigh all the pros and cons of of the impact a job on your teen’s life before he or she commits to employment.

Advantages to Your Teen Working

There are plenty of reasons to let your child start working. Some of the reasons are more important to you than to your child, but all of them must be considered.

Having and Controlling Their Own Money

Teens are expensive. The cost of car insurance, cell phone, electronics and activities add up to major expenses. When teens want additional money to socialize, buy new video games or get expensive clothing, it is helpful for teens to start paying for extra amenities with their own money.

This is a great financial education for teenagers. When they have to fund some of their own activities and purchases, they learn to budget accordingly. It is an eye-opening lesson to discover how long and hard you have to work to pay for just one pair of designer shoes or the latest video game.

Work Experience

In today’s job market, experience often carries you just as far as a good education. Teens who work can learn valuable job skills early on. Adding work experience to their resume can get their foot in the door after high school or college. Students who work learn valuable communications skills and gain the ability to work as part of a team.

Related Article: Why is it important to have a great resume?

Working teens demonstrate to potential employers that they can be depended on to show up, work with others and handle the stress of employment. Some colleges consider your work experience as part of the application process, using it in place of extracurricular activities.

Using Free Time Constructively

Despite increasingly complex schedules, most teens have free time they fill with activities such as video games and television. There is nothing wrong with this unless it is excessive. Afternoons and evenings with nothing useful to do can lead teens into mischief or worse. Having something constructive and positive to do fills idle hours and gives teens a sense of purpose.

Learning Time Management

Working teens learn quickly they have only limited hours in a day. To keep up with homework and other activities they need to learn how to manage their time effectively. This skill can help them in college when workloads seem overwhelming to students fresh from easier high school schedules. It is a great rehearsal for the post-college workplace, where time management is essential to handle larger and more complex workloads.

Increased Confidence

Working and taking on an adult responsibility is a confidence booster for teens. They learn that others rely on them and assume they can handle various duties. When they accomplish these tasks, they feel a sense of accomplishment that carries over into other aspects of their lives.

Disadvantages to Your Teen Working

While there are a lot of positives for teens with jobs, there are negatives to consider as well. For some teens, the downside of working while in high school may outweigh the potential benefits.

Increased Stress

Teens with a heavy school load and multiple commitments to other activities may feel overwhelmed if they must fit work into an already busy schedule. If they have a job with an unpleasant working environment, they may suffer stress having to face an uncomfortable situation on a regular basis. This additional stress may be the final straw for some teens who simply cannot handle too much pressure. The end result could be poor grades, lack of sleep and health problems.

Decreased Academic Focus

While many teens flourish when working a part-time job and studying, others do not. If there is not a good balance between work and school, grades may suffer because teens cut study time short or are simply too tired to focus. This is especially true if your teen takes advanced or honors classes.

Loss of Childhood

High school is the last bastion of relatively carefree living. Aside from school work and activities, there are few adult burdens. This gives teens time to navigate the confusing transition from child to adult and explore the new emotions they are feeling. A job adds an adult responsibility. For most people, this responsibility continues for the rest of their lives. Giving teens a few more years without major responsibilities is a gift they appreciate when adult responsibilities cannot be avoided in later years.

What to Consider

It is clear there are perks and drawbacks to having teens who work. To determine whether a part-time job is a good idea for your teen, ask yourself and your teen some important questions:

  • Does your teen have the time available to commit to a part-time job on a regular basis?
  • Can your teen manage his or her time effectively?
  • Can your teen juggle the responsibilities of multiple commitments without feeling overwhelmed?
  • Does your child have the maturity and communications skills to cope with potential problems on the job with maturity?
  • Is your teen’s academic performance or family time negatively impacted?
  • Can your teen find a job he or she can safely perform?
  • Can your teen handle the financial responsibilities of employment appropriately?

Discussing these issues is the first step in determining whether your teen starts working while still in school. One alternative to working, while a student, is summer employment. Teens can find seasonal employment during the summer months when they have more free time and fewer commitments.

Related Article: Advancing in an Entry-Level Job

It might also interest you: