As I write this, cold winter temperatures and blowing snow have returned to Southern Ontario making it that much harder to think about summer employment. Yet for parents, it is time to start helping our teenagers look for a summer job. While not all teens are ready for summer employment, those who are will find a successful job search and work experience can offer mental health as well as financial benefits.
By actively helping your teen find summer employment, you are strengthening your relationship with them. I recommend you patiently help them figure out what types of jobs might be right for them, help them find job postings and write their cover letters and resume. If you or your teen needs help with the job search process, consider visiting one of our Employment Services offices, which offer free assistance. By helping your teen develop job search skills, you are also helping them learn more about themselves and building their self-confidence and self-reliance - all important aspects of mental health wellness.
While at work, your teen will face a variety of experiences that will help them learn new life and social skills as well as enhance existing ones. They will learn how to communicate with and work with people (other than their peers), understand the need for job etiquette (no cell phones!) and gather work skills and experiences that will help them in their future career. They will experience the structure of having a job, learn more about who they are, what they like and dislike and develop a sense of purpose in their lives. These experiences will help them develop independence, self-confidence and autonomy and improve their mental health.
The financial rewards of a summer job are beneficial to mental health too. Having some money they have earned themselves helps teens appreciate the value of money, introduces them to the adult responsibility of managing their money and gives them a bit of financial independence.
Parents can support teens through the job search/work process by remembering that self-confidence and becoming an adult are learned through both successes and failures. How parents frame the successes and challenges of the job search and work experiences influences the teen’s perception of themselves and their mental health. By walking alongside your teen, you show confidence in their abilities and assure them that you are there when needed. Remember, as the parent you are their support, so let your teen do the work. As your teen completes the job search with as much independence as they can handle, they are developing self-confidence, mastering important developmental tasks and learning that their parents believe in them.
So summer employment supports good mental health in teens by providing structure to their summer, helping them learn new skills, building their self-confidence, helping them learn more about themselves, helping them increase their autonomy in a positive manner and, yes, collecting a paycheque!