WITH the school year drawing to a close, parents and teens are likely to be experiencing polar emotions; on the one hand parents are anxious about how they will keep their teens engaged for the summer, while the teenagers are brimming with excitement at the thought of imminent freedom and relaxation.
While summer is the perfect time for video games, watching movies and constant sleep, it is also the perfect time for teens to get a job, whether there is financial need or not. The options are endless, from working as a baby-sitter or camp counsellor, to being a filing clerk in the family business. No matter which job your teen chooses, the benefits to be gained will prove invaluable for you and most importantly, for them.
1. Responsibility. While teens have responsibilities at school, responsibility on the job will introduce them to a new level of maturity. When these are not met at school, the teen alone is mostly affected; on the job, however, such actions will not just affect the teen, but customers, co-workers and the boss. The lesson to be learned here is that responsibility or the lack thereof has implications and must therefore be taken very seriously.
2. Fiscal management. The value of a dollar is often misunderstood by teens who view mommy and daddy as ATMs, easily dispensing cash to meet their needs. Working a summer job provides the perfect context to help teens understand the worth of work and earning. Teens will begin to appreciate the value of saving over spending as they become increasingly aware of the costs associated with the items they desire, and the time and effort invested in the work they do and the wages earned.
3. Independence. A summer job signals the start of weaning them off parental support. Slowly but surely you will find that your teens begin to rely on you less and less, as they must now go out on their own and ask about job vacancies, develop a resume, and be interviewed for positions. Such actions will encourage the development of independence and help to build confidence as they must now begin to trust the decisions they make. Remember, your guidance will always be needed -- especially as they begin to handle their own money, but cut the cord and watch as they develop into mature young adults.
4. Learning about themselves. The teenage years are about establishing an identity, and summer jobs are a terrific way for teens to learn more about themselves. By putting different skills to use, they can learn more about what they like and don't like. That teen who always wanted to be a doctor may realise he has a fear of blood and is better suited for business. While they may learn several skills in the classroom, the world of work offers an invaluable experience to put it all into practice. Whatever the job, your teens will learn more about what speaks to them and help in the decision of what career they will embark on some day.
5. Staying out of trouble. According to the old adage, 'The devil finds work for idle hands.' Help your teen to avoid this! Bored teenagers will always find trouble, and there seems to be no shortage of that these days. By working, teens will introduce structure to their life, even if it's two days for the week or a few hours each day. This structure will help them to appreciate their free time more, thereby using it more wisely once their workday has ended.
While the obvious benefit of a summer job for a teen will be that pay cheque with their name on it, it is the important knowledge gained through work experience that will follow them throughout their lives that is the true benefit.
Doneisha Burke is a clinical psychologist (MSc) and lecturer specialising in child and adolescent issues. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org