MOMs for Mental Health – Should Your Teen Get a Job?

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Should your teen get a summer job? In today’s Moms for Mental Health Monday, we’re sharing advice to an ‘Ask Dr. Marshall’ question about the pros and cons of teens and part-time jobs. Have a question regarding mental health? Email ‘Ask Dr. Marshall’ at Visit Moms for Mental Health at #MomsForMentalHealthMonday #AskDrMarshall #MentalHealthMatters #MentalHealthMattersEveryDay
Dear Dr. Marshall,
When I was growing up back in the 90s, I had my first part-time job at age 14. It seems like that is not common today like it was before. Is it wrong for me to encourage my 16-year-old to get a job because of the new stresses kids face today?
Dear Mom For Mental Health,
Thank you for this interesting question. Before I begin, I’d like to share that I too was a child of the 90s with a similar experience.
I am hesitant to confirm that our youth today are stressed more than past generations. I am of the mind to consider that each generation lives in different circumstance, and that those each pose a unique and/or a different set of stresses.
The first thing I would consider is your teen’s current involvement in activities. I would be careful to encourage a part-time job if he/she is busy most nights after school. Over scheduling does seem to be one of the nuances of today’s youth that produces anxiety.
The second item to consider is “What is the purpose of your desire to encourage this?” Purposes such as character development, this is in-line with our family’s values, and/or skills building for your child could result in more successful follow through and a meaningful experience vs. purposes such as that is what I was forced to do, I’m not sure, or that is what I wished I had done. Having a thoughtful approach with your expectations often reduces push back and increases your child’s sense of respect for your wishes.
Third, much like with anything, a part-time job for a teen can come with some pros and cons to consider as a parent. Most notable are the following:
• Effect on homework or study time
• May give a negative impression of the workplace
• May interfere with other opportunities
• Might create stress
• Might increase risk of substance abuse with available money and increased independence
• Money management, general life and work skills
• Experience for future career choices
• Less free time for risky behavior
• Builds life skills
If wanting to move forward, I would consider ways to deter/limit the cons. For example: starting with a summer job to reduce effect on high school life, monitor your child’s experience with the employer, be aware of current state child labor laws, identify a most meaningful experience, and jointly manage money earned so you have a sense of its use.
Lastly, while I encourage you to have supervision over this experience, I would also allow your teen to have choices in this matter where appropriate, such as places in line with his/her interests. Whenever you provide a choice, there is a sense of ownership of the endeavor.
Additional reading:
1. Mortimer JT. The Benefits and Risks of Adolescent Employment. Prev Res. 2010;17(2):8-11.
2. Singh K. Part-Time Employment in High School and Its Effect on Academic Achievement. J Educ Res. 1998;91(3):131-139. doi:10.1080/00220679809597533
3. Boles AM. Centering the Teenage “Siren”: Adolescent Workers, Sexual Harassment, and the Legal Construction of Race and Gender. Mich J Gender & L. 2015;22(1).
4. Monahan KC, Lee JM, Steinberg L. Revisiting the Impact of Part‐Time Work on Adolescent Adjustment: Distinguishing Between Selection and Socialization Using Propensity Score Matching. Child Dev. 2011;82(1):96-112. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01543.x
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