Parenting Teens with a Part-Time Job
It's summer time and that means many teens will be getting summer jobs. Summer jobs are great opportunities. Teens gain work experience and are able to add income that can pay for many of their own expenses. They also gain life experience in those jobs. Here, they learn the way the world works which is often quite different than the way school works. Don't show up for school, for example, and you just have to get your mom to write you a note. Don't show up to work, and you're fired.
A great deal of that life experience comes from the interactions with other adults. Now, I'm a huge believer in the fact that young people, especially teens, need positive influence in their lives from adults that are not their parents or caretakers. Many of the issues they deal with stem from their parents in the first place and at the very least the perspective that others can provide on life outside of their family circle is invaluable and can make for a more well-rounded person.
Whether they realize it or not, many parents have already vetted the adults in their children's lives. Grandparents, aunt, uncles, and other relatives as well as family friends and neighbors are typically known well enough by parents before they spend significant time with children and teens to know if there are any red flags. Teachers, coaches, and church staff either have extensive background checks or at least are screened before working with children as well.
Few parents, though, typically know much about their teen's adult supervisors or coworkers. Often, these end up being the adults that teens spend the most time with outside of their parents. However, there is no mechanism for a parent to have any sort of background check on the other workers at, say a random restaurant or shop, that the parent has no ties to.
I believe that 99.9% of people are more or less good-natured and unless you keep your kid in a bubble you can't shelter them forever. But, you do need to be aware that these are going to be influential people in your malleable young person's life. Thus, take the time to ask your child about work and the people there the same way you do about their school day. Make some visits here and there to their work, if that is reasonable, and casually meet some of those people.
I'm not advocating spying or witch hunting, I'm just advocating awareness of the people your child is around. Teens enjoy the company of adults and will gravitate towards them if and when they have a chance to form a bond. Be sure you're at least a little bit in the loop on who those people are.
By Rob Hicks, School Counselor at Fernandina Beach High School, author of guidey.blogspot.com