It's music to a parent's ears — when you hear your teenager say, "I want to get a job." Both of my children are working in Garden City this summer. Hooray!
While most parents are typically pleased when their son or daughter lands his or her first job, they may not be prepared for the changes their child's job will bring to the family.
With parents already juggling one or more jobs along with family and community responsibilities, adding another job (or more, depending on the number of children in the family and their ages) means that family life is subject to change. Transportation to and from a child's job also may be an issue — and an extra expense.
Landing a job can boost a teen's self-confidence, but reality — the fact that a job is a responsibility, and means making a commitment to get to work on time and give the job your full attention — can be an eye-opener.
Much can, however, be learned from early employment opportunities, according to Charlotte Shoup Olsen, Kansas State University Extension family life specialist, who suggested that one of the best possible scenarios is an employer or supervisor who is willing to mentor and serve as a role model for teen employees.
Learning to work with a variety of people can be a benefit, as practicing customer service is a transferrable skill that can spill over into other aspects of life. Learning to be a team player also is a skill that can be beneficial outside of the job.
A teen's summer job also will yield financial benefits for the teen and, often, can relieve some financial pressures for the family.
Parents should work with their teen to help him or her build money management skills, encouraging young wage-earners to identify short- and long-term financial goals and begin saving to build an emergency fund for unexpected expenses during the school year when there will be fewer hours available for part-time work.
"Teens will typically want to test their buying power, and will likely make some money mistakes," Olsen said. "Early money mistakes can be learning experiences that can lead to more careful spending in the future."
Family life also may suffer some from teens' employment. Much will depend on the family dynamics and relationships prior to the addition of one or more jobs within the family.
"Advice to give-and-take might seem clichÃ©, but is necessary to keep the family on an even keel," said Olsen, who encourages families to schedule downtime for everyone and plan for time together to communicate, plan schedules and nurture the family unit.
"Back-off on some regularly scheduled family events, but remember to schedule the must-haves early on," Olsen said.
If, for example, the family is planning to gather for a landmark birthday, graduation, wedding or other reunion, a working teen should ask for the time off well in advance. Family vacations also may need to be rescheduled or postponed until fall or winter breaks to accommodate the teen's job.
While challenges of getting everyone to work are real, a teen's early work experiences offer opportunities to grow and develop as an individual, explore a career interest, and build people skills that can be helpful at work, in school and just about everywhere else.
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