Teens & Employment Pt. II

When teens are eager for employment, there are things to consider before diving into the workforce. Depending on a child’s age and level of independence, parents may want to assist in the process of job hunting, applying, and interviewing without fully micromanaging the operation. Previously, we discussed the importance of matching part-time opportunities with your teen’s interests or hobbies, as well as how to plan for scheduling conflicts and juggling obligations. In addition, families will want to cover a few more bases before beginning the job hunt.


Teens need to know that they will start at the bottom

A first part-time job, as exciting as it may be, will likely not be glamorous. As logical as it may seem, teens need to be reminded of the fact that the “tasks” required of the part-time job won’t always be entertaining or equal to their level of skill. It is important that children understand that, with little to no experience in the workforce, no job, title, or task should be considered “below” them.


  • Prepare teens for the cold realization that their first job is probably going to be underwhelming—and a serious check to the ego. As a new-to-the-workforce, part-time employee, teens will be spending much of their time stuffing envelopes, restocking shelves, making photocopies, scooping animal cages, filling orders, clearing tables, washing dishes, etc. They must be prepared to go into the experience with a “whatever it takes” mindset.
  • Talk to them about appreciating the experience—it’s not about the menial tasks; it’s about the greater lessons that teens garner from these part-time jobs. By starting at the bottom, teens learn about the importance of everyone’s contributions. They also gain insight into what will be required of teamwork, reliability, cooperation, diligence, and people-pleasing.
  • The workplace is one arena where effort and hardwork will always be recognized. In school, children are evaluated on the outcome or result—they do not always achieve based on the amount of effort that they put into their studies; it’s the grade that is emphasized. However, at work, employers are familiar with the learning curve. They know that newbies are being thrown into a sink-or-swim scenario and are often supportive and understanding of errors when effort is apparent. Remind your teen that, like everything worth having, a job is not going to be easy. But with the trials and tribulations that come with the part-time job, they are also gaining life skills that will benefit them greatly as they enter young adulthood.


A boss or manager is not the same as a teacher or parent

Today’s teens have the luxury of second, third, and sometimes fourth chances. Many school districts, in an effort to give students additional opportunities to practice reflection and error analysis, require teachers to offer a certain number of reassessments, rewrites, or retakes to students. While these practices certainly boost grade point averages and self-esteem, they do not adequately prepare students for the real world, where one opportunity is often all that is given.


  • Unlike parents and teachers, employers are less likely to consider emotions, personal baggage, or careless errors as legitimate excuses for missteps. Their mentality is, “If you can’t do the job, I’ll find someone else who can.”  It may seem cold, especially to a teen who is used to getting multiple opportunities to succeed. However, teens need to understand that “one and done” is often the true expectation in the adult world.
  • Remind your teen that a boss’s stern demeanor, constructive criticism, or inflexible exterior is not personal—it’s just business. Their goal is to manage the team and do right by the company or organization. When the manager asks an employee to do something, it is not exactly a request. Talk to teens about how to take initiative, follow through on a commitment, and put forth their best effort.
  • Finally, it is important for teens to know that their job is their job. Teens should not rely on parents to call employers, set up interviews, call in favors, or make excuses for their tardiness or missed shifts. Just like a college professor would not entertain excuses from students’ parents, an employer is not going to make those exceptions either. Teenagers, when responsible enough to apply for and take a part-time position, must be responsible enough to handle their own working relationship with the employer.

A Teen’s First Job Pt. I

So your teen is set on part-time employment to make some extra spending money—great news! However, there are several discussions that should happen before teens take the plunge and make that serious commitment.


Encourage your teen to start by brainstorming his/her interests

One solid starting point when teens begin considering a part-time job is to point them in the direction of their own interests. It is much more enjoyable to invest your time and work somewhere when the job revolves around things you enjoy. Ask teens to think about what they like—then brainstorm from there.


    • If he/she prefers the outdoors, consider the following options: lawn mowing, mulching or other landscaping jobs, dog walking, raking leaves, assisting a summer camp, lifeguarding, bicycle delivery service, park service, etc.
    • If he/she enjoys animals, consider applying for dog or cat sitting, pet stores, zoo assistance, pet groomers, pet training schools, pet boarding companies, veterinary help, or rescue organizations.
    • If he/she is interested in helping others, think about retirement communities, church camps, child care programs, babysitting, food/clothing/book collection for the needy, hospitals or clinics, and programs to help people with disabilities or Special Olympics.
    • If he/she prefers art or literature, consider employment at local bookstores, libraries, museums, painting/crafting studios, music venues, or local newspaper or magazine publications.


Consider how the work schedule will fit in with life BEFORE applying

As much as teens may be thinking about all of the wonderful ways in which a little extra cash can help them, they need to really think about the time commitment that this part-time job will require. If school comes first, this potential job will come second—meaning that activities with friends, spontaneous weekend trips, and hangouts will all be pushed to the backburner. With this level of commitment, your child will need to consider the following:


  • How much time he/she is able to commit per week; some employers will want to hire only when employees can work a minimum of 10 hours per week, for example. You will need to sit down as a family and really crunch the numbers to ensure that the hours required for the job are realistic for your teen’s prior commitments.
  • Logically speaking, how would your teen get to and from his place of employment? If he has a car, that is much more manageable. However, if he isn’t driving yet, or shares the family car, public transportation may need to be arranged. Does he know the bus loops? Is the job within a walkable or bikeable distance? How long would he need to carve out in order make it to his shifts on time?
  • Your teen must also be prepared to make scheduling sacrifices. Besides school work and family obligations, the job will have to come first. That might mean missing the big game, a last-minute ski trip, or having to decline someone’s sweet 16. Will it be a bummer? Yes, but that is the level of commitment that even a part-time job will require. Teens must be prepared to say “no” when a social event conflicts with the work schedule or weekend shift. If they are not ready to sacrifice fun for funds, then it is not quite time for a job yet.
  • Tardiness at work is not the same thing as tardiness in school—there is no detention as retribution. Instead, if your teen is late to work, she must be prepared to face the difficult, sometime irreparable consequences. Discuss the fact that both the employer and your teen’s fellow coworkers are relying on her to show up on time. Being late to work often has ripple effects of which your teen may need to be reminded. Her tardiness might mean that customers have to wait, the business may lose money, other employees may have to cover her absence. Essentially, tardiness is a reflection of one’s level of care and responsibility. Remind your teen that showing up late, even once without notice or a justifiable reason, is a very bad look.

Creating a Positive Climate for Learning, Part I

Whether we’re talking public schools, private schools, tutoring sessions, or homework at the kitchen table, a positive mindset goes a long way when it comes to the learning environment. Research shows that when teachers and students feel valued, respected, motivated, and engaged, learning increases exponentially—of course it does! As logical as this push for positivity may seem, it does not simply emerge out of nowhere; it must be cultivated by those who wish to bring it to life. There are small, deliberate steps that schools, parents, teachers, and students can take to foster a positive, successful learning environment.


At the school level

Creating a safe, engaging, positive learning space is likely the goal of every school. In order to do this, schools must ensure that the individual mission and vision for the school is clearly defined and communicated. Simply put, the vision encompasses the goals for the school and its “ideal” future; the mission involves the day-to-day steps for how the school plans to make that vision a reality. Instead of passively including the vision on official letterhead or posting it to the school’s web pages, school administrators should make a concerted effort to vocalize the goals for their school.

  • The vision should be visible in classrooms, conference rooms, and common areas, like the library or cafeteria.
  • The vision should be phrased in a student-friendly manner, and in a way in which student needs are clearly put at the forefront.
  • Schools should communicate how this vision will come to life and set up expectations for students and staff that foster such an environment.
  • Recognize students who embody the vision or mission statements with awards, celebrations, certificates, etc. The point is to grow an appreciation for the overall goals of the school and highlight when small gains are made by its members.
  • The vision should account for the community as a whole. Perhaps a middle or high school will partner with the neighborhood elementary school for a “buddy-study” program; or maybe the local businesses or organizations want to offer a career day or “shadowing” opportunity. A nearby retirement community may want to perform with the school’s chorus for an intergenerational choir.
  • On a similar note, schools can foster positivity by giving back to the community. A food drive, coat collection, trash clean-up, or anonymous pay-it-forward initiative in the community can build positivity and teach students what it means to contribute to society. Even small gestures, like thank you cards or planting a tree on campus for Earth Day can spur more positive motivation for learning.
  • Appreciation days for support staff, maintenance personnel, security, and cafeteria workers also help to exhibit a learning environment where everyone is valued. Students benefit from learning in a building where everyone’s efforts and contributions are acknowledged and celebrated. Showing admiration and appreciation to the hardworking people that run the building every day helps improve the school climate on both singular and wholistic levels.

On the topic of recognition, schools can foster positivity and an optimistic climate by celebrating student work and achievements throughout the building. Schools should think about using the daily news show or morning announcements to announce birthdays, students of the month, athletic scores and stats, community service achievements, etc. Ask students to exhibit their art work, photography, essays, or poems in display cases throughout the building—this shows young learners that, more than the grade, it’s the effort and growth that builds the foundation of a strong, successful school.

Give Thanks by Giving Back


Give Thanks by Giving Back

The old adage “to give is to receive” may seem a bit convoluted to young children—especially since children are more inclined to care about their own needs being met. With Thanksgiving upon us, it is the perfect time to teach children about the importance of giving. Whether you give your time at a food bank, donate toys to needy children, or make greeting cards for the elderly or terminally ill, giving to others has countless positive effects.

There are many things that children can learn from giving.Giving back builds confidence and instills a sense of purpose. It is important for kids to learn that they can be agents of positive change. By volunteering and giving back to those less fortunate, children can see exactly how their own actions can have a great impact.

Children can gain a different perspective on life. Everyone is guilty of feeling sorry for themselves at some point. Children especially can get caught up on the idea that things are “not fair.” Giving back can be a very great lesson for kids—because they’re right—life is not always fair. Helping others in need is an eye-opening experience, and certainly a humbling one, as well. Yes, you get the warm feeling from the fact that you brightened someone’s day, but it’s more than that. In the day-to-day, we often forget to be grateful for the blessings we have. Kids are able to gain a new perspective on just how fortunate they are by helping others.

Volunteer work teaches social skills. Charity work and volunteer opportunities are often done in groups with others from the community. Volunteering with new “friends” allows children to introduce themselves, engage in conversation, ask questions, etc. The “teamwork” aspect of community service also encourages cooperation, problem solving, leadership skills, and listening skills. Whether kids are raking leaves for elderly neighbors, or organizing a coat drive for struggling families, giving back together allows children the opportunity to develop socially.

Giving back allows kids to explore their talents. Volunteer work can teach children valuable lessons about their strengths. There are always different charities and organizations that could use an extra hand. With the vast amount of work to be done, children can explore different roles while giving back. Perhaps your child is great at socializing and making people laugh during hospital visits. Or maybe your child has great leadership skills for helping at a youth camp. Possibly your advanced reader wants to read to young kids at a local shelter. No matter the task, giving back allows kids to show their strengths in the name of giving. Not only can kids practice developing their skills, but they can feel proud of the fact that their efforts are helping others.
Too often, children believe that their actions, beliefs, and opinions go unnoticed simply due to their age. By helping someone else, kids can begin to see that what they do does, in fact, matter.