Navigating Summer Jobs for Teens

I LOVE summer! It is my favorite season. Summers mean sunshine, hanging out at the pool, long days at the park, and eating lots of ice cream! Once upon a time, our summers were all about kicking back and relaxing.

Now we have teenagers and summers also mean summer jobs! Before we walked through it, I imagined these Leave It To Beaver scenarios. They saw a help wanted sign in a window and ran home with an application. That was all it took to get a job. It seemed so simple.

I am here to tell you it is NOT so simple. Summer jobs can be a great experience for teens. There are, however, some elements to consider. And like so many other activities our children participate in, we as the parents end up having some work to do, too.

Why do they want a job?

Ask your teen, “Why do you want a job?” If you haven’t suggested it, I think it’s an excellent question. It’s important for them to know the reason behind their decision. Even if the motive is as basic as “money,” it can be the difference in how serious they are about the decision. Many teens start jobs only to quit when the reality of having a job sets in. Sacrificing hanging out with friends or having to wake up early can all be grounds for a teen to rethink their decision.

If your kid is thinking toward his future and chooses a job based on a possible future career, half of the questions will answer themselves.

Our son got his first job as a way to purchase a dog. He was 14. We did not plan for him to work at that age, but an opportunity presented itself. We really wanted to make sure he was serious about the responsibility of owning a dog. Since he was willing to work for it, it showed us he was committed. So we agreed.

Raising responsible humans means holding them accountable for the decisions they make. And helping them hold themselves accountable is also important. This can also be a time to gather insight into the mind of your teen ( no matter how scary it may seem). Whatever you discover, it can be the catalyst for some productive conversations.

Location, Location, Location 

Having our children find odd jobs around the house or friends’ houses, like house- and dog-sitting, helped to relieve some of the stress of experiencing that first job. It was an easy way for them to ease into working and get accustomed to having some responsibility without overwhelming them. They were able to gain some work experience and make some money.

Safety First

It was also a safer choice than some of the more popular first summer jobs for teens. It would be great if we could just let our children work anywhere. The truth is we don’t live in Leave It To Beaver land. Your child’s safety is important. The questions of location and hours are just a couple of details that need to be examined.

Safety is of the utmost importance. Along with location and hours of operation, it’s also imperative to discuss how to navigate managers and other employees if issues arise. Making sure that you are informed on anything that comes up that makes them uncomfortable is key. Most importantly, stress the importance of not waiting to ask questions if something doesn’t seem right.

For her second job, my daughter worked at the local grocery store in our small town. We felt fortunate to have a rapport with her managers and there were many other high school students working there. It didn’t feel awkward for her. And we didn’t feel like those parents.

Transportation To & From Their Job

Remember that 14-year-old boy who we agreed could work for the dog? What we didn’t think about was having to drive him back and forth. One other concern with location is…how do they get there?

Even if your child has a license, it doesn’t mean they have access to a car. Depending on the situation you may end up being their ride to work. The distance from home now becomes an even more important factor. Also, schedules have to be managed. Here is where questions like how many hours and what days are they allowed to work need to be asked.

Letting our children take those first steps into adulthood can make us feel a lot of different emotions. We know we have to let them get out there; we can let them spread their wings while still keeping a watchful eye. Those first summer jobs for teens can be exciting and enjoyable.

Being prepared means having a lot of talks about expectations and responsibility. There needs to be a balance between the benefits and the drawbacks. For us, it really came down to having a lot of discussion about what was right for our son or daughter and what was right for our family.

What tips do you have for navigating a teen’s first job?

I'm Angela Vaughn. I have been married to Jonathan for 20 years and we have 6 children. I am a Chicago native born and raised. We moved to Texas in 2009 from Virginia where my husband was stationed at Langley Air Force Base. We originally lived in Greenville where I homeschooled and taught theatre and dance for several years at a local dance school. I am a performer/ actor by trade and I am so excited to be finally getting my degree in theatre, I am graduating from Texas A&M Commerce in May. I have worked with several theatre groups in the Greenville and surrounding areas. I serve on the board of Stomping Ground Comedy Theatre which is located in Dallas. I am an aspiring author working on my first children's book that I hope will be finished this summer. I am an ambassador for Noonday collection helping to advocate for people living in vulnerable communities and helping to provide a market place for them through entrepreneurship. We moved to Mckinney almost 2 years ago and we are really enjoying it and hoping to make some friends while being more involved in our community. After moving so much I really believe you have to bloom where you are planted.