Money & Career

Should your kids get a summer job?

©iStockphoto.com/Mangostock Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©iStockphoto.com/Mangostock

Money & Career

Should your kids get a summer job?

If your kids are ready to take one on, a summer job can be a great experience for teens, helping them develop a sense of genuine self esteem, independence, personal control, and responsibility, says Michael Ungar, Ph.D., professor of social work at Dalhousie University and author of Too Safe for Their Own Good: How Risk and Responsibility Help Teens Thrive (McClelland & Stewart, 2007).

"These are all things that build a child's resilience for future success when these same skills will be useful," says Ungar. 

Plus, besides the obvious and oh-so-important fact that it puts a little cash in their pockets, a summer job can also help teens develop a resume that sets them apart from their peers when it comes to applying for university or a post high school job -- especially if the summer job they're taking on has some relevance to their future career or educational direction.

Is your teenager ready for a summer job?
Because every child is different, you need to use your judgment as to whether your teenager is ready to get out there and work. Ungar says that the signs your child might be ready include being a motivated individual, having a desire to be a little more independent, wishing to be given more responsibility, and having a desire to have their own money.

He says that parents need to ask themselves: Does the child show the necessary responsibility to follow through? "Before we set a child up to fail, we need to know that a job is a manageable risk, something they are likely to succeed at doing," he says.

First summer job
Trina Stewart, from Cambridge, Ont., is a mother to17-year-old Christina. Her daughter has a babysitting job and loves it. "She feels like she is doing something rewarding, and gets a lot of pleasure from working with kids," says Stewart.

However, Christina's first summer job, working at a local Baskin Robins, didn't go so well; she found it stressful and had difficulty listening to instruction. She ended up getting fired, but Stewart says that in itself was a really good experience for Christina. "Kids these days aren't taught to fail, so being out in the workplace helps them understand what real life is like," she says. "The experience taught her life skills she wasn't getting at school."

Page 1 of 2 -- Find out how to ensure a summer job is a positive experience for your teenager on page 2.
Ensure a summer job is a positive experience
Parents need to set parameters to ensure that a summer job is a positive experience, such as ensuring that a job isn't going to take over their child's life, put too much stress on them or take too much time away from other important activities.

Stewart advises that parents ensure that their child will be working in a teen-friendly environment, as otherwise it might prove to be a poor match in terms of scheduling and employer expectations (a few of the issues her daughter ran into while working at Baskin Robins).

Importance of a summer job
As long as parents are aware of how the job is affecting their child, and keep an eye on how things are going, working should be a positive and rewarding experience.

Ungar says that the summer job is an important rite of passage for teens, helping them jump the maturity gap and enter into young adulthood.

Plus, it will ensure that they spend some of their summer productively; Stewart is keen for her 15-year-old son, Brandon, to take a job this summer too, so that can get away from the computer and gain some real life experiences, just like his older sister has.

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Should your kids get a summer job?

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