Should I Let My Teen Get a Job?
10 Things Parents Should Know
As much as teens rely on mom and dad for a warm bed, free laundry, and a stocked refrigerator, they desperately want to feel like adults. Often times, this desire results in teens wanting to take on their first job. While parents want their teens to have a healthy transition into adulthood, it can be scary to let them take on the responsibility and the demands of a job while they’re still in school. Allowing your teen to get a job is a big decision, especially if they are involved in challenging classes or demanding extra-curriculars.
So how can parents know if their teen is ready to start filling out job applications? Here are 10 things to consider:
1. There are tons of benefits
We’re not talking about health insurance or retirement plans; those will come later down the line when they reach their career goals. But there are countless benefits that an entry level job can bring to a teenager’s life.
To name a few, jobs can help them:
- Discover how to search and apply for jobs
- Learn about money management
- Gain confidence
- Feel independent
- Become more responsible
- Develop work ethic and job skills
- Stay occupied when school is out
- Network and make friends
- Develop time management
- Pay for their own stuff (can I get a YASSSS!)
2. It doesn't have to kill your grades
“My son?! A job?! How will he pass AP bio?!” Despite many parents’ concern that by earning an income, kids will lose all motivation to make good grades, research has indicated that teens working 10-13 hours per week tend to have higher grades than their unemployed counterparts. It should be noted however, that working more than 13 hours per week can make it difficult to manage the high school work-load
3. It gives a "feel for the field"
Sadly, many students spend years pursuing high level degrees only to find themselves unsatisfied with their field after they graduate. An entry level job related to a field they are interested in can give them a sense of the pros and cons and help them determine if it’s really what they want to pursue long-term. For this reason, it’s good to encourage them to look for jobs that develop skills related to their interests. For example, if your daughter wants to be a doctor, becoming a lifeguard would teach her CPR and other lifesaving techniques.
4. Jobs help careers
While college degrees are important, let’s face it, employers want work experience. Whether or not your teen’s job has anything to do with their long-term pursuits, the skills and work ethic instilled by minimum wage employment can definitely make them stand out above candidates who only have academic track records. Plus, working as a teen demonstrates that they are successfully able to balance work and education, a trait that shows they are both persistent and adaptable.
5. Baby steps are the way to go
…just don’t call them that – your teen wants to be treated like an adult, remember?! They don’t have to go straight from total dependence on you to working 30 hours a week and moving out. Make a deal with your teen that they can only work as long as nothing else suffers – that means school, social relationships, extracurriculars, and family time. Start out with allowing them to only work weekends or seasonally. As they prove themselves capable and responsible, consider allowing more hours after school.
6. Motives matter
Taking on a job is a great way to teach goal-setting, persistence, and financial education to your child. If they express interest in getting a job, ask them why they want one. To buy a car? To prepare for a career? To gain responsibility? Have them set goals and hold them accountable as they work. This is also a great time to teach them how to budget and create a savings plan to earn things they want to work for.
7. Volunteering isn't the same thing
Don’t get us wrong, volunteering is a wonderful thing for your teen to take part in. It builds character, encourages compassion, and fosters gratitude. But there are certain takeaways from paid employment that volunteerism just can’t provide – jobs will teach your teen a heightened level of accountability and will help them understand the relationship between time, effort, and compensation – all important concepts as they enter adulthood.
8. There are cons to consider
While there are many benefits in allowing teens to work, it’s important to understand potential setbacks. First, teens are still developing, and their lack of real world experience can make them vulnerable for being exploited by employers. Working excessive hours can also harm their social life, extracurricular activities, and school attendance. Employment also exposes teens to older adults, potentially increasing the risk of them being exposed to drugs or alcohol. These reasons are why it’s critical for parents to stay involved, making sure their child’s working hours are moderate and that employment is not impacting other areas of their life.
9. Personal factors play a role
At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether teens should get a job. Parents have to base the decision on their child’s mental health, emotional maturity, and current demands. If your teen is taking a ton of high level classes and really stressing out about them, this year might not be the right time to add a job to their plate. If they struggle with time management or showing up to school on time, have them work on improving those areas before you consider letting them work.
10. Variations can help you decide
Every parent’s goal is to help their teens transition from carefree children to productive, responsible adults - but knowing how to do that can be tricky. The decision to let your teen work can be difficult, but our specialists at Variations Psychology can help.
Cynthia Johnson, LMFT, is a specialist in Parenting and Child Therapy at Variations Psychology. She has years of experience in supporting parents, teens, and children in working through challenges, reaching their goals, and building strong, healthy relationships.
Dr. Christopher J. Sample, Psy.D. specializes in supporting men and teen boys through life’s transitions. Teen boys and men face a variety of unique challenges throughout their lives, and Dr. Sample is experienced in helping clients cope with issues such as school or work challenges, family and relationship struggles, anger, anxiety, depression, and trauma. Dr. Sample provides a comfortable place for men of all ages to overcome obstacles and gain the tools for leading successful and fulfilling lives.
Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Ph.D., is a Child and Educational Psychologist. Dr. Shinn can get to know you and your teen, discuss your goals and concerns, and help you decide if your teen is ready to take on their first job. In addition, Dr. Shinn can give you tips on how to better prepare your teen for the workforce before making your decision.
Subscribe to our blog for a weekly article on topics that affect your life
Found this article helpful?
Rate and review us on Google and Yelp
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the highlighted topic. For a full consultation, assessment, and personalized treatment plan, schedule an appointment
with one of our specialists.
More about Variations Psychology
Variations Psychology is a group practice specializing in Child and Family Psychology.
Our specialists provide therapy to infants, children, adolescents, and adults to help them overcome the many challenges they may face throughout the lifespan of a family. We also conduct diagnostic testing of child and adult conditions that may impact the family’s mental health and development (e.g. ADHD, Autism Depression, Anxiety, Learning Disorders, college entrance exams).
See our Specialists page to select the specialist that best suits your need, or simply give us a call and we will guide you..
Variations Psychology is located in Newport Beach, CA and provides counseling to residents throughout Orange County and its surrounding areas including Newport Beach, Newport Coast, Irvine, Shady Canyon, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Coto de Caza, Corona del Mar, Costa Mesa, Yorba Linda, Dana Point, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo, Pelican Hill, Crystal Cove, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, Lake Forest, Huntington Beach, Sunset Beach, Seal Beach, and more.