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Kids and Summer Jobs

by Katriena Knights

It's a question every parent will face eventually--should I let my child take on a summer job? Whether it's dog walking, house-sitting, or a formal job at the local grocery, there are many issues to consider before giving the go-ahead.

When kids start talking about summer jobs, too often their focus is on the money they can earn and how they can spend it. They spend much less time considering the logistics of the job itself and the responsibility that comes along with taking on this kind of activity. As a parent, you can help them through the planning stages and give them an idea of what they can realistically take on.

For the pre-teen or early teen set, intermittent jobs present a good opportunity to ease into the idea of having a regular job. Doing yard work for the neighbors, weeding gardens, walking dogs, or tending pets while neighbors are on vacation are all jobs a pre-teen or teen should be able to take on with minimal help from parents. Older kids could also tackle mowing, babysitting, or house sitting.

Money-making "events" can be fun, too, like garage sales, bake sales, a car wash, or the classic lemonade stand. These have the added advantage of offering opportunities for the younger set to help out. Have the older kids do the planning and setup, and give them a chance to supervise the younger ones--fairly, of course. Indentured servitude of younger siblings at the lemonade stand should be frowned upon.

Aside from all these traditional options, your teen might be interested in taking advantage of today's advancing technology. Some teens have found a chance to make useful spending money by coding websites for their friends. Others have marketed products online through eBay or their own dedicated websites. Some of these motivated and creative teens have gone far beyond just making pocket money and have literally become millionaires. While there's no guarantee your child will become the next Internet sensation, making him aware of the possibilities of having his or her own business could prove an important part of his education. This kind of endeavor could go beyond just a summer job, as well, and become a year-round activity.

For older teens, the lure of a "real" job starts to beckon, especially once they've achieved the Holy Grail of a driver's license. Local businesses might be in need of summer help, or check with employment agencies in your area for information about businesses or organizations that might be looking specifically for younger employees. For example, local summer camps might be in need of counselors or other staff.

Whatever your teen decides to do, be sure to consider the following before committing to a job or project:
• Is your teen legally old enough to work for a local company?
• Do you feel your teen is responsible enough to take on a job or project?
• If your child isn't old enough to drive, are you willing/able to shuttle her back and forth to work?
• If your child reneges on promised chores, are you willing/able to fulfill his obligations?
• What will be the consequences if your child doesn't fulfill her promises?

Sitting down with your teen and discussing these issues before committing to a job will go a long way toward impressing upon him the seriousness of the endeavor he's decided to take on. Also, if you discuss various contingency plans ahead of time, you'll be able to respond quickly and fairly in case your child becomes ill and can't do the job she's promised, or simply proves unwilling or irresponsible.

Whatever conclusions you come to about your teen's pursuit of employment, the idea offers many opportunities to educate your child about how the real world of work functions, and to give him or her a good idea about what life is like after school. Responsibility, financial management, a work ethic--all of these can be important lessons learned through a summer job.

Categories: Tweens, Teens, Children, Feature Stories,

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