During the long days of summer, it’s common for teenagers to lounge around, sleeping until noon. But should they be more productive during their break from school? We spoke with parenting expert and adolescent psychologist Dr. Barbara Greenberg about teenagers and employment to find out. We also got input from JJ Ramberg, founder of Goodshop, host of MSNBC’s Your Business and the author of new book The Startup Club. Their message is clear: Having a job is a good thing!
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“I am a big fan of teens having summer jobs,” says Greenberg. “In my practice as a clinical psychologist specializing in parenting, teen and relationship issues, I have seen teens benefit from jobs in many ways.”
Let’s count those ways! Sorry, teens, it’s time to turn in those job applications.
Through early employment, teenagers can figure out how to have a job in the world. Then there’s that old chestnut that parents have relied on since the beginning of time: learning responsibility. “Teens learn about responsibility and the importance of showing up on time and the expectations associated with being a valued worker,” says Greenberg. There’s no better way to learn about these things than actual real-world experience.
Ramberg agrees. “The earlier we can teach our kids about how to be responsible at work, the better.”
What better way to find out that parents aren’t ATM machines? Through working, teenagers learn to appreciate money. They can also learn how to budget their new income, enabling them to save for big purchases. “There is no better way to learn about money than by learning that you need to earn it!” enthuses Greenberg.
Ramberg agrees. “According to the T. Rowe Price Parents Kids and Money Survey, parents who talk with their kids once a week about money are more likely to have kids who say they are smart about money,” she says. “So, if your child has a job, it’s important to then take it the next step and talk about how they will spend or save their earnings.”
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Businesses that employ teens generally have a staff, and that staff needs to work together. “They learn about the importance of being a team player,” says Greenberg. “This is a valuable skill throughout life.” As adults, we generally need to know how to work well with others, and that’s something teenagers can start getting used to early.
“I have seen self-confidence and self-esteem increase as a result of being a good worker and earning money,” explains Greenberg. When teenagers are given responsibility, they gain confidence. And seeing that they have the ability to earn money is empowering. “Having a job can give our kids a sense of independence and confidence that can carry through other parts of their lives,” adds Ramberg.
Employment doesn’t have to end in the fall. Teens can build skills all year-round provided they have time for other responsibilities like schoolwork. “Some kids may be so booked up with other activities that there is no room to work year-round,” says Ramberg. “Others may gain a lot from having a job that goes through the year.” Help your child assess his or her schedule and see if adding employment hours will work for them. Mastering the art of time management will come in handy after graduation — and so will that extra cash!
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“A job is a chance to do well,” notes Greenberg. “Teens need all kinds of arenas in which to be successful. This provides another one.” Having a job allows adolescents to experience success and to understand how to create the life they’d like as adults. “It’s helpful for them to see at a young age how curiosity and hard work can help them achieve their goals,” says Ramberg, “at work or otherwise.”