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Pros and Cons: Summer Jobs for Teens

June 4, 2014

By Kevin Rutter

A teen smiles behind the counter of a store.

Summer is around the corner and the time away from school provides an opportunity for young people to step into the working world. As your teen considers a summer job, first make sure he or she is adhering to youth labor laws and then weigh the pros and cons of summer employment.

Youth Labor Laws
The United States Department of Labor is the federal agency that monitors child labor and enforces child labor laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal law that provides guidance on youth employment, sets the minimum age of employment at 14 years old and limits the number of hours worked by minors under the age of 16. Since the rules vary depending on the age, the job, and individual state laws, check with your child’s high school counselor on your state’s law. He or she can also provide you with the necessary documents to apply for employment.

At my high school, I am the facilitator of the Cooperative Education Program that helps students land jobs during the school year. I am a big proponent of youth employment because of its many benefits. Here are my top three pros:

  1. Orientation to the employment process. Finding a job is not an easy thing to do and it requires several steps, including filling out an application, submitting a resume/cover letter, and interviewing. Getting your child to engage in this process helps to build a foundation for confidence in filling out other applications, producing better resumes/cover letters, and in interview situations.
  2. Making money. Earning some money is a great thing and teaches your child the value of a dollar. It also provides you a chance to teach him or her about money management. You can help your child open a checking account (many banks have accounts specifically for high school students) and learn a basic principle in earning money: PYF. PYF stands for Pay Yourself First and means that every time a person has money coming in, they must feed their own savings account first, before anything else is paid out. Professional financial advisors suggest automatically setting aside 10 percent for this purpose, but teenagers have less fiscal obligations than adults and can easily set aside a greater percentage. I would suggest 25 percent for your student.
  3. Learning workplace norms. Working a summer job teaches a student a broad range of valuable employability skills like showing up on time, working well with others, verbal communication, problem solving, and following the rules.
There are some cons to teens having a summer job. My top two are: 
  1. Spending money foolishly. I have observed a big mistake with some of my students: they don’t save their money properly. To have a healthy, happy financial life, it is critical that they get into the habit of setting some of what they earn aside.
  2. Burning bridges. It is also very important exit the summer job on a good note. Future employers will call the places your child has worked to check on how he or she behaved and performed in the workplace. Take care to emphasize to your child that he or she must put in two weeks’ notice prior to leaving the job and should resolve any conflicts that arise in a professional manner.

It’s smart to consider all the pros and cons of each employment opportunity that might interest your child. Talk to your teen about financial responsibility, appropriate workplace behavior, and the benefits of getting a job in order to figure out what he or she wants to be when the times come to decide on a career path.


High School Grads & New Freedom

June 3, 2014

By Amelia Orozco

Graduates toss their caps into the air.

There is that brief moment between the time our children take their first steps and when they first borrow the car that they are still under our protective wings. Perhaps you and your teen are anticipating that newfound “freedom” that comes from graduating from high school.

Planning for the future and getting ready for college should be enjoyable for the family. If prepared for, that brief gap between high school and college can be a time to reinforce family values and strengthen your relationship.

But what happens if your young adult misinterprets this break from school as a time to slack off or worse yet, to rebel against household rules that to him or her seem to apply only to children? After all, your teen may remind you, “I am now technically an adult.”

Fortunately, you are your child’s first teacher and the principles you have worked to instill in him or her will remain a foundation for the rest of your child’s life. Consider this time as one of the last training opportunities in preparation for what your child will have to do independently one day.

First, establish rules for responsibilities at home with chores and errands. This will remove the element of surprise when you ask your son or daughter to help out at home. Second, keep your teen busy with a purpose. Maybe he or she already has a part-time job, and in addition to this, can also join a summer sports team or volunteer at a local community center mentoring younger kids.

This is also an opportune time for young adults to pursue a passion that they may not have time for during college. Encourage your child to start a movement or create an organization that helps others in the local or global community. Because he or she is still living at home, your teen has the advantages of your guidance and support to pursue something worthwhile and truly meaningful.

Whatever his or her interests may be, your teen can always be shaped to serve a bigger purpose, which will have a lasting and satisfying effect for everyone involved. From a global charity like The Clean Water Project, to smaller scale projects such as making quilts to donate to a local nursing home or joining a neighborhood beautification club, there is an organization out there for your teen’s interests.

Finally, take time to create moments with your child before he or she embarks on a new phase in life. Take fun day trips with no particular direction, with the sole purpose being to spend time together. Enjoy each other’s company without the stresses of the daily grind. Both you and your child will discover new things about each other as you rediscover nature, visit cultural centers, or run a 5K race together.

It does not really matter how you choose to seize those few and precious moments, but capture as many of them as you can. Having a grown daughter myself now, I am grateful for that time and relive it each time I browse my old photographs and mementos.

Send your teen off to college with more than his or her clothes and books. Instead of having a recollection of a summer full of bickering, complaining, and boredom, your child will take a photo album full of wonderful memories that you will both recall for years to come.

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.


My Story: Being an Au Pair

June 2, 2014

By Lorena Villa Parkman

Two women push kids in strollers and talk in the park.

Photo credit: Tumar/

I was 21 years old when I decided I needed an adventure. I was mid-way through my bachelor’s degree and graduation seemed closer and closer each day. I was confident I would have a job before finishing college, but I worried that with the responsibilities that come with having a full-time job it would be a while before I could have a long-term adventure in another country. I didn’t want to enroll in an exchange program since I knew my parents didn’t have enough money to support me in a foreign country, so I started looking for jobs. That’s when I learned about au pairs.

An au pair is a young woman (or man) between the ages of 18 and 26, with limited childcare experience who is willing to stay with a family in a foreign country for a cultural exchange and to take care of their children as nannies do.

The differences between an au pair and a nanny are that the latter makes a career out of childcare work, might be older, and doesn’t seek a cultural exchange. Au pairs become part of the host family. They live and vacation with together and receive lodging, meals, and a monthly salary from the host family. Besides taking care of the children, they perform some household chores and overall can be considered older siblings to your kids.

I ended up being an au pair for eight months in Istanbul, Turkey. It was a marvelous experience for both my host family and me. I will never forget Oktay and Sibel, the two kids who became my little brother and sister, and my experiences there.

With that experience in mind, if you plan to hire an au pair or nanny, here are some things that you might want to consider:

  • The candidate must have basic first aid knowledge.
  • He or she must have experience taking care of children. Since an au pair will be living with you and will be immersed in your family routine, he or she might have less formal experience taking care of other people’s children. Ask for references in both cases.
  • Make sure he or she shares your family values, especially if you plan to hire an au pair with whom you will be sharing your personal family life. Even though he or she might have other customs, since the au pair is likely from a culture and country different from yours, ask him or her about core beliefs and morals.
  • Use an agency for both au pairs and nannies since most agencies do a background check. There are many au pair agencies out there like Great Au Pair and Au Pair Care
  • Your family should meet the au pair or nanny before you hire him or her. Talk about your expectations and make sure your personalities are a good fit. If the au pair lives in a foreign country, schedule some Skype calls in advance of the move. 
  • Before hiring an au pair or nanny, make sure the monetary compensation and list of specific chores expected from him or her are clear for both parties.

If you make sure through extensive research that the au pair or nanny is a good fit for your family, your family and the au pair or nany will end up having a wonderful and enriching experience.

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