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Should your teen have a summer job?

The pros and cons of finding a summer job

Teenage girl on her bed and looking at her phone on a late, sunny spring afternoon.

School’s officially out for summer break. Although the time away from homework, tests, extracurricular activities, and high school hallway drama can be a welcome reprieve, it may not be long before the lack of structure causes your teen to become bored and unmotivated.

Consider this an opportunity: A summer job can alleviate boredom, and the extra spending money can provide an important preview of financial independence. For some families, this work might also bring in crucial money to help with groceries or even rent.

That said, there are potential drawbacks, which we outline below. Here’s what you need to know about whether summer employment is the right choice for your teen.

In this article:

Benefits of summer jobs for teens

Getting a job as a teen comes with many significant benefits:

Earn their own money

A summer job allows your teen to start earning their own money, a significant benefit that can fill them with a sense of accomplishment. It’s also an excellent opportunity for you to teach them the importance of saving and how to budget their new earnings effectively.

If time and energy permits, you can even sit down with them and offer guidance until they’re ready to handle budgeting on their own. Even then, you can still let your teen know you’re there to help if they need it. Developing those habits now can help them become a more financially responsible, independent adult.

Stay busy

There’s a good chance that you’ve lost count of just how many times you’ve heard your teen say they were bored or had nothing to do during breaks from school. While some free time is beneficial to their well-being, research from the American Psychological Association suggests that too much can be detrimental. A job gives your teen something productive to do. They’ll stay busy, which can help stave off boredom and keep them out of trouble.

Identify interests for a future career

Your teen might not know what they want to do yet, but getting a summer job can clarify. It can help them discover what they’re good at and what things they enjoy doing. (And perhaps just as importantly, what they don’t enjoy doing.)

Their work experiences now can help them figure out what career path they do or don’t want to follow in the future. Sometimes experiencing a job in retail or customer service may be just the ticket to motivate them to work hard to obtain a different type of job in the future. It may make decisions about attending college or some other form of training easier.

Learn responsibility and other work-related skills

Even if the work isn’t directly related to a field they’re considering as a career, it can teach many valuable skills that can transfer to a future job search. Your teen will have to manage their time, follow directions, demonstrate a work ethic, and fulfill expectations.

They may also have to learn how to communicate effectively and work with others to achieve goals. Your teen can then use that job experience on their resume, which may give them a leg up in finding a job with potential employers later.

Build confidence

A job puts your teen in unfamiliar territory and pushes the limits of their comfort zone. Exposure to new challenges and learning how to overcome them can help your teen build confidence, boost their self-esteem, and provide a sense of accomplishment.

Drawbacks to a summer job

Despite the benefits, there are a few drawbacks to summer jobs for teens:

Less free time

Working — even only part-time — means your teen will have less time for other activities. They might feel a little disconnected from their friends if they miss a few activities due to work. Planning a family vacation or taking spontaneous trips could also become more challenging.

And while we think of work as taking time away from pure leisure activities, it also takes time away that could be used for, say, volunteering or taking on additional coursework. Not to mention playing a sport or taking music lessons. (That said, juggling these competing interests is a useful sample of what it’s like to be an adult.)

Schedule may be inconsistent

Depending on the job, your teen may not always work the same hours. Their shifts may vary throughout the week, and their role may require them to work some weekends. If a co-worker calls out, they may also need to cover shifts last minute on their days off.

Added stress

Most jobs can be challenging at times. Unsatisfied or rude customers, workplace drama, or a demanding employer can cause frustration and stress. These are opportunities to talk with your teen about how to handle conflict “in the real world” and have them practice in a relatively low-stakes situation.

While some stress can help them adapt to new situations and grow, too much can be harmful to your teen’s mental health and well-being. Teaching your teen stress management techniques may help them cope.

Too many hours may be harmful

Working too many hours, even if they have no other responsibilities during the summer, could harm your teen’s mental and physical health. For instance, they may not get enough sleep, which could impact their mood, impair their thinking, and increase their risk of accidents or injuries.

Additional considerations

If you and your teen are discussing the possibility of them getting a summer job, here are a few other things to keep in mind:

Is your teen ready for a job?

Talk with your teen about whether they want to get a job. Help them understand that they’ll need to be responsible and reliable. They also need to commit to a summer work schedule.

What jobs are available?

There are plenty of summer jobs for teens out there. Along with more conventional positions like a barista or retail store clerk, your teen could take a seasonal job as a camp counselor, tutor, or lifeguard. You could also work with them to start their own local business offering their services as a babysitter or dog walker.

Is the job only for the summer?

Decide if you only want your teen to work during the summer months and focus on their studies during the school year. If so, you’ll want to ensure they look for summer-only or seasonal positions.

How will they get to and from work?

Your teen will need a reliable way to get to work on time. They’ll need someone to drive them to and from work if they don’t have a driver’s license or a car. Depending on location, they may be able to ride their bike or take public transportation.

Does your teen need a permit?

Many states require minors (those under 18) to obtain a special permit before they can start working. Depending on where you live, your teen may need either an employment certification or an age certification. Some states require both. You’ll also want to be aware of the guidelines set forth by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regarding the number of hours minors can work and the types of work they can do .

Do you have any family plans during the summer?

Your teen will need to inform their employer of any family vacation plans. The earlier, the better. They can even mention it during the interview process when discussing availability.

Does your teen have any other obligations?

If your teen participates in sports, volunteers, or does any other activities during the summer, they’ll want to keep those obligations in mind to avoid conflicts in their work schedule.

Help prepare your teen for the future

If you have a kid, that’s at least one person who probably depends on you to pay for the basics (clothes, groceries, a roof over their head) not to mention the big stuff (like tuition in a few short years). That means that if the worst should happen to you, you might leave your loved ones without a financial safety net.

Enter life insurance. Life insurance offers financial protection for your loved ones in case you die. With term life insurance, you can buy a policy that covers you during the years until you expect your teen to become financially independent. For example, a 45-year-old woman in excellent health can buy a 10-year policy, worth $250,000, for as little as $14.99 a month.

Start by getting a free online life insurance quote today.

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About Jessica Moore

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

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