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 | By Sheri Wohlfert

5 Tips for Helping Teens With Their First Job

I don’t think anyone would argue that raising teens who are responsible, hardworking and confident is a noble and vital task. One of the ways high school students can develop those and many other important skills is getting a part-time job while in high school. But because balancing family, work and school can be tricky, here are some thoughts to consider.

Take it from the top: Sit down with your teen and look at the pros and cons of getting a job. Obviously, list toppers on the positive side would include developing a strong work ethic as well as gaining confidence, cash, responsibility and communication skills. The flip side includes less time for study, social activities and family time, as well as the stress of time management. Since the list will look different for each child, this is the time for you to voice any concerns or share encouraging thoughts.

Examine the why: Sometimes we do the right thing for the wrong reason. Being clear about the why will help make sure the match is a good one. If the why is to gain experience in a possible career field, that might look different than if the why is to earn spending money. A good match in this area helps with job commitment and prepares your teen to ask the right questions as they look for a job that is the right fit.

Lay the foundation: Our mission is to help kids be safe, healthy and holy, so before they take that first job, help them succeed by setting up a structure with that mission in mind. Make sure the schedule allows them to attend Mass and participate in faith-based activities. Their first “job” at this stage in life is to be a student, so be clear about academic expectations. Discuss the number of hours they can work, the times they can be available and the family events that take priority. First-time jobs don’t tend to be glamorous or high paying, and they often involve doing the “new guy” things that aren’t always too appealing. Spend some time talking about how to handle that, because quitting isn’t the best option.

Share it: All of these ideas and expectations need to be communicated to the employer. You may need to role-play this discussion, but it will build great skills and bring peace to the process of balancing school, work and family. It’s OK to lose or not get a job if it doesn’t allow your teen to keep their studies and their family life a priority.

One more thing: Do a little homework about the place your teen might work. We have to be aware of the people and places that will influence them. It’s so important to do all we can to make sure our kids are surrounded by people and experiences that will help them become the saints God made them to be. Have the conversation about handling situations in the workplace that might contradict faith and family standards and beliefs.

Sheri Wohlfert is a Catholic school teacher, speaker, writer and founder of Joyful Words Ministries. Sheri blogs at