By the time children reach middle and high school, they usually are ready for a summer job. This could be a paying or volunteer job -- either way, the experience will contribute to a teen's overall education as certainly as European history, geometry, English, or physics.
Why Does the Teen Want to Work?
Many young people want to work for spending money. Others have a desire to hone a skill or explore a dream.
If money is the primary motive, talk to your child about it. How much do they expect to earn? What do they want to buy with the money?
Explore the idea of saving a percentage (50 percent perhaps) of the summer's earnings. This can be put into an interest-bearing savings account or invested more aggressively. After a few summers of saving, your child could have a handsome sum -- enough to help with college tuition, finance a car, or pay for an outstanding trip.
What is the Best Job?
There are numerous jobs out there; the trick is finding one, particularly when the economy is not especially helpful and younsters must compete with adults for temporary and seasonal work.
Encourage your child to be open to ideas. No one walks into his ideal job when he's 16 years old, but many successful adults look back on the time with gratitude.
Your teenager will benefit from nearly any job. Making ice cream cones or stocking shelves can teach her how businesses work from the inside out and how to deal with all sorts of people.
Her attitude will make or break the experience. If she is open minded and excited, she will gain life lessons. If she is convinced the job is a "dead end," she won't learn a thing.
Volunteer jobs at hospitals, youth camps, shelters, daycare centers, and other places can give young people a sense of accomplishment. These jobs, while they bring in no money, are an investment in a youngster's future and teach valuable skills.
The same can be said for unpaid internships at local businesses. Sitting at the receptionist's desk or working in the filing room will open a teen's eyes to possibilities in the working world.
There are some jobs that are not well suited for teens. According to the National Consumers League, dangerous jobs include those that involve driving (such as pizza delivery or operating a forklift); jobs where the teen works alone in a cash-based business, such as a gas station or convenience store; and selling products door to door in strange neighborhoods.
How to Find the Job?
The best way to find a job is to look for one. Look on Craigslist and other online outlets, as well as in newspapers. Check out fliers on community bulletin boards and in shop windows.
Word-of-mouth is equally effective. Parents can tell their friends and colleagues; kids can tell their friends' parents and other adults.
Advertising works, too. This is particularly true if the teen wants to be an entrepreneur: mowing lawns, walking dogs, babysitting, housesitting. A catchy ad posted on bulletin boards -- virtual and real -- and telephone poles around town can yield good results.
Most schools have counselors to help kids find jobs or steer them in the right direction. Independent paid educational consultants work with families to find enriching volunteer experiences.
How to Keep the Job?
Once your son or daughter has landed a job, explain how important it is that he or she take it seriously -- paid or volunteer.
Tell the teen to:Show up on time.
Finally, every parent should be proud of a teenager who finds and then excels at a job. Tell your child how you feel. From you and from this summer experience, he will learn that working can be rewarding in many ways.