Preparing for Adult Life
Most parents and primary caregivers agree that one of the primary objectives of raising a child is preparing him or her for life out in the real world. Every family has its own set of values it passes on to its children. Some value empathy, some value respect, and some value kindness. Some value all these and more. Regardless of what the family’s moral and ethical code is, after these fundamental building blocks, almost all parents and primary caregivers strive to instill some sort of work ethic into their children. After all, just about everyone on earth has to work for a living, and no one wants this to come as a total surprise to their children. When the little birds are ready to leave the nest, parents want them to be ready for whatever life has to offer them. So, the question is: how do you teach your children about work and instill a solid work ethic in them? There are many answers to this question and there are many paths to personal responsibility. Once kids are old enough, one way to teach them about what working is like is to let them really do it: allow them to get out there and get a job. This is a common practice for many families. Specific laws vary from state to state, but most places in the U.S. allow young people to start working for wages (i.e., filling out tax paperwork and reporting income) during the early teenage years. The United States Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes the minimum age for employment at age 14 and limits the number of hours and type of work for young people under age 16.
The Pros and Cons of Allowing a Teenager to Work
Every teenager is different and will respond to new and unique life experiences in their own way. When considering whether or not to allow your teenager to get a job, the main thing to think about is whether or not the job will negatively affect academic performance. If the answer is no and you feel your child can handle it, the next step is to talk it over, check the laws of your state, and let your teenager go see what’s out there.
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The following list of pros and cons is meant to help both parents and teenagers start thinking seriously about the reality of teenage jobs:
- Jobs help kids develop a sense of responsibility.
- Jobs help kids develop a greater sense of self.
- Teens that work a reasonable amount of hours—less than 15 hours a week—get better grades than teens who don’t work.
- Jobs help kids learn to manage money and understand personal finance.
- Jobs help kids transition from youth to adulthood.
- Jobs can add stress to a child’s life.
- Jobs can expose kids to people and situations they might not be ready for.
- A teen working a job might feel like childhood is ending too soon.
- Teens who work too much—more than 15 hours a week—get lower grades than kids who don’t work at all.
- Teenagers who work have money that could possibly be spent on things that aren’t good for them, such as alcohol or tobacco.
Is Working Good for Teenagers?
Research shows that, in general, working a job has positive developmental effects on the life of a teenager. There’s a catch, however: too much work is not good, and too little work doesn’t show positive results. Moderate, steady work proves the most beneficial route for teens who do work. That said, it’s extremely important for parents to be involved in the process: they need to visit the place of employment to make sure it has a good feel, and they need to monitor the number of hours worked to make sure their teenager is not working too many nights or weekends. In addition, parents need to be certain that their teenager is not doing hazardous work. The best guidelines for teenage work hours and teenage workplace safety can be found at the websites of the United States Department of Labor and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Finally, when teenagers work it’s vital for everyone involved to remember that adolescence is about many things, and learning about work, developing a work ethic, and growing into adulthood are parts of a bigger picture. With that in mind, it’s best for a teenager to find a healthy balance between work, extracurricular activities, and school.