How to avoid a miserable summer with your unemployed (or underemployed) teen

Teen volunteers planting a tree

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This summer, your teenager may encounter the challenge of older, more experienced job seekers competing for positions, and may come up empty.

That’s why some teens, who would normally take a summer job to make some cash for fun and the upcoming school year, may find themselves in a tight spot.
Nothing to do? There’s always something to do

“The thought of our sons or daughters lying on the couch watching TV all summer long is simply not a possibility,” says Laura Gauld, co-author of The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have and co-founder of TBJ parenting seminars.

“Parents know that kind of behavior can lead to boredom, bad habits, and low self-esteem, and they worry.”

What can parents do to support their teens through what may be a summer of unemployment (or underemployment), so that the whole family can continue to enjoy the sunny season?

“Parents can look at this situation with an eye to short- and long-term goals,” says Malcolm Gauld, president of Hyde Schools, “and stay close to their priorities. We believe in turning obstacles into opportunities, and this is a prime example.

“Short term, it’s only one summer. But long term, it’s about an attitude toward life and its challenges. So raise your expectations for your kids.”

Teenage volunteers picking up trash in the community
Photo by NomadSoul1/Envato

In the event that your teen cannot locate a summer job this year, the Gaulds offer several suggestions.

Find a mentor: Teens and their parents can seek out a mentor — a family friend, business or community leader — to work with voluntarily, learning their business, and helping them in whatever way they can.

This opportunity would be scheduled, like any job, and keep your teen engaged. They would continue to learn new things and gain valuable experience for the future.

Volunteer: There are neighbors, churches, and community centers all around, and they need help. Call and volunteer for filing, clean-ups, aiding shut-ins, helping the elderly with lawn work and other activities.

Assign a project: Parents can offer their teen an important task to do at home, and pay them something for it. Whether it’s painting the garage or planting a garden, it needs to be done well. Teens can gain self-esteem when entrusted with an important project at home.

“All kids need to be responsible for jobs, whether in the community or at home,” adds Laura. “And they respond positively to feeling needed.”

A 3-point plan to help

The Gaulds also suggest a three point plan for the family that will help them as individuals and as a unit.

1. Weekly family meetings. Take charge and schedule a weekly family meeting where everyone is invited to share ideas, thoughts, challenges, stories. Communication remains very important through this time.

2. Jobs. Everyone in the family needs a job, and, as a member of the family, teens are no exception. All members must take on part of the responsibility of creating a clean, welcoming, and organized home.

3. Mandatory fun. This is a time (you determine how often) when the family comes together to do something fun. Family members take turns choosing the activity, and even if there is resistance among family members, for example, they do the activity, enjoy themselves, and learn about each other.

The Gaulds underline these points by reminding parents to “be the parent.”

“Many parents are in a power struggle with their kids,” says Malcolm. “And some have relinquished their authority altogether — the power sits with their kids. The first thing parents have to get on board with is that they are the adults in the relationship and setting an opposing example from what they really want from their kids, which only confuses them.”

In the end, parents can show their kids how to continue to grow as people, as family members, and as citizens, regardless of the economy by sticking with core values.

“The strongest relationships are those resting on a foundation of principles,” says Malcolm.

Nancy J Price & Betsy Bailey

Nancy J Price & Betsy Bailey

We're Nancy and Betsy, and we've been adventuring in the digital world since the mid-90s -- truly making us that type of entrepreneurial internet pioneer Gen X is known for! We started back in 1998 and later launched -- among various other online and print projects. Our partnership has spanned decades and crossed state lines (multiple times!). Nancy currently resides Arizona, and Betsy's newest home base is Minnesota. It's been an incredible journey of collaboration and innovation. You can read more about our story here!

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