Should Teens Work in High School?

Should Teens Work in High School? I sometimes wonder how much, or even IF, my teen high school job experiences helped when I was growing up. And, should I expect my kids to work part-time jobs even if they have numerous after school sports and activities?

My kids are still a little young and we haven’t crossed that bridge but the subject came up recently when my husband and I started talking about the first jobs we ever had.

Should Teens Work in High School? – My Side

When you throw the teens and part-time jobs question out there, my immediate response seems like a no-brainer… Of course teens should work to get some real-life experience and learn the value of hard work. But, the more I talked to my husband and the more I looked back to my own experiences, I saw just as many pitfalls and lost opportunities as I saw life benefits. There were some real differences between us when it came to how we were raised and it made me wonder how we would approach the teens and jobs issue with our kids.

My work situation as a teen was relatively sheltered. I was a waitress at Big Boy from age 15 to age 17. Sure, it wasn’t the most glamorous job in the world but it was exposure to customer service and learning how the restaurant business worked. My Big Boy job was also on the low-end of part-time – only 12-15 hours a week. My cheerleading schedule and academics took care of my mondays through fridays.

I grew up in a very traditional, almost stereotypical Italian family. Very family oriented. My 12-15 hour work weeks didn’t net me a lot of money. I was very fortunate that my parents chipped in to help with money if I ever needed something for school or wanted to go to the movies. They knew my after school activities (cheerleading and school clubs) were important and chewed up a lot of time. My parents didn’t give me very much in terms of money, but they definitely helped. I rarely asked for extra money to go somewhere but when I did, they usually obliged. Long story short – I didn’t have a lot of money but I never went without – and I didn’t have to work very much (or for long hours).

Should Teens Work in High School? My Husband’s Side

My husband’s situation was different. He started a paper route when he was 14 to buy his own guitar. My husband was on the hook for most of his teen expenses (gas, entertainment, trips, guitar lessons etc..) If he wanted something, he had to buy it. His paper route job led to a dishwashing job at a Chinese restaurant and then a busboy/cook position at Pizza Hut for the rest of high school.

While my husbands’ teen jobs taught responsibility, they weren’t necessarily in fields that taught a lot. His teen jobs also required him to work a lot of week nights and weekends. Since my husband didn’t play high school sports, he worked between 25 and 35 hours a week. When we were talking about our teens and jobs, he almost lamented that perhaps he had worked too much and missed out on valuable high school experiences. While his friends were at (or playing in) high school football games, he was making pizzas most every Friday and Saturday night. That said, he did have plenty of pocket-money he needed to date, save for Spring Break, and buy all the Quiet Riot cassette tapes and guitar lessons he wanted.

Both my kids are already showing signs that they want to be heavily involved with high school sports and activities. I’d like to be able to help them out money-wise but, that’s likely going to be difficult. When I was a teen I could fill up my gas tank for $12 or go to the movies for $5. It sounds great for me to say I’d pay for some of his non-sports after school activities… But, the first time he asks for a tank of gas and movie money and the total comes out to be $75, I’m going to do more than blink! I shudder to think about the look on my husband’s face one day when my daughter asks for prom dress or spring break money! Should teens work in high school to pay for all of these things or just some of these things? I guess it depends on situation.

When I was a teen it was “just expected” that kids should just march out and take whatever job, no matter what it was, that came their way. When it comes to my husband and I, only our fashion choices back then were as dubious as our job selections. Neither of us regret working, but we could have done better if we would have thought out our job choices a bit more than we did.

I’d like my son or daughter’s first teen job to really help them with a skill they could use moving forward. Me setting up the breakfast buffet at Big Boy or my husband washing dishes at 1a on a Saturday at a Chinese restaurant taught the value of hard work but there was little else we took from those experiences that we could apply to our future. I’m hoping my kids will be able to pursue a skill or craft that may apply to their future or, at the very least, be a little more selective when it comes to jobs than my husband and I were.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to kids becoming teens and working high school jobs. I want my kids to learn the value of hard work when they’re young but I also want them to have a social life with their friends as well. Hopefully they can find a nice mix of both.

Should Teens Work in High School?

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