Wednesday, February 26, 2020

First Job

With this post, we introduce a new member of our blogging team, Kate Taylor, who recently joined The Yellin Center Team as a Clinic Coordinator. Welcome, Kate!

With the arrival of March comes the gentle reminder that spring and summer are close at hand. Soon, school will be out and kids everywhere will be looking forward to the happy months of summer vacation. But for teenagers, summer break is not just a time for fun--it can also mean getting a job, one of the first big steps into adult life.

Why is the first job such an important milestone? Most obviously, having a job brings new financial responsibilities into your child’s life. Teenagers gain a sense of independence and control over their own life, as well as a physical reward for the benefits of hard work. A job is also a great opportunity for some hands-on experience in money management. Instead of monitoring or controlling your child’s wages, allow them to explore the benefits of spending versus saving through their own decisions. That doesn’t mean that you can’t offer budgeting advice, or help them to set up a bank account. But control over their own money helps your teenager to practice the saving and budgeting skills that will be so important later in life.

Having a job also allows teenagers to expand their social networks and develop their socialization skills. School environments can be very close knit and structured. Behavior in school is dictated by strict social rules that can be frustrating and constricting. Having a job is a great first step for teenagers to expand their social networks outside of the school environment. The teamworking skills that come along with a job are also crucial. Whether they strengthen their friendship-making skills, or they learn how to deal with prickly coworkers, your teenager will definitely have the opportunity to fine-tune their socialization skills. Furthermore, the hierarchical relationship between management and employees can help your teenager to develop the social skills necessary for dealing with authority figures.

When I first started working, my dad told me that the most important thing you can do is show up on time. “Fifty percent of life is just showing up,” he told me. Time management is one of the most important things you learn when you start working. Managing this balance is doubly important if your teenager decides to continue working during the school year. Keep an eye on their grades to make sure that working is not disrupting their academic career--at the end of the day, school should always be prioritized over a job. Whether your child has to schedule work around school, juggle two jobs, or organize their social life around a job, the time management skills developed while working are incredibly helpful later in life, especially if your child is seriously considering college.

The benefits of a job are extensive, but it is also important to recognize that a first job can be overwhelming, and requires a lot of energy, both physical and mental, from your child. As a parent, it is your job to prioritize your teenager’s mental and physical well-being over any obligations to a part-time job. Make sure the workplace is a safe one, whether that means fully understanding the job tasks (working with machinery or in a kitchen, for example) or the people in the workplace (helping your child to recognize inappropriate behavior from supervisors or coworkers and what to do if it occurs). Make sure your child is taking care of themselves. Regular communication is important, especially if their job requires any extended driving time. Shifts can disrupt mealtimes or regular bedtime, so always check that your child is eating enough and getting enough sleep. Also make sure that the job is not stopping your child from having an active, relaxing social life with both family and friends. There are going to be a lot of changes and adjustments when your child starts working. Whether they need advice, comfort, or support, be sure you are paying extra attention to their emotional needs.

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