Stop into your local sandwich shop or café and you’re likely to be greeted by a smiling high schooler, assembling your sub or brewing your espresso. In a paper on the benefits and risks of adolescent employment, Dr. Jeylan Mortimer explains that “having a paying job at some time during high school has become an near-universal adolescent experience”. While the decision to work part-time during school is one that should be carefully considered by both you and your child, researchers have uncovered benefits (as well as pitfalls) to teens in the workforce.
To Work or Not To Work
According to research conducted in the early ’90s, many parents like the idea of their teenager working, often associating part-time work with positive qualities such as independence, responsibility, interpersonal skills and good work ethic. Teens are also often excited to start working, to start earning their own money and, by extension, their own independence. However, some educators argue that part-time work takes away from school, sapping up too much after-school time that should be spent studying or sleeping. Certain developmental psychologists also express concern that teens who work too much are sacrificing an important time of life. There is another school of thought that asserts that the quality and quantity of work, along with a teenager’s personal circumstances, determine how that teen is affected, for better or worse, by their work experience.
Work with Your Teen
Part-time work can instil great values in teenagers, from improving their time-management skills (which is proven to be beneficial as teens transition into college or university life) to teaching them how to manage their finances. For kids who won’t attend college, part-time work during high school is also beneficial, as these teens are able to gain skills needed for future employment. Despite all of the supposed pros of part-time work, it is important that you as a parent stay involved in your child’s work life. Stay on top of the number of hours that your child is working each week and make sure that your teen’s time spent working aligns with their long-term goals. For example, if your child’s goal is to graduate from a four-year university, it might be beneficial for them to have a steady job, but one which requires them to work 20 hours or fewer per week. Mortimer recommends that parents encourage their children to avoid jobs that ‘crowd out’ other activities, such as sports, other extracurriculars and spending time with friends and family. Balance is key.
Let’s not forget about volunteer work and internships! Oftentimes, volunteering and other unpaid opportunities require less time from your teenager, while still providing them with valuable work or life experience. Encourage your child to think about their goals—greater autonomy, responsibility, the opportunity to express creativity, helping others, future income—when deciding how to spend their free time. Not only do many programs provide young people with resume padding, but they also expose them to a world outside their realm of experience. These opportunities are vital in shaping your child’s views and long-term goals.
Feature Image: Death to Stock Photography