In Your Corner: Teens and working

Now that you’re a junior in high school, you are considering finding a job for after-school and on the weekend. You would like to have some money for clothes and to eventually buy a car. As you begin your search you also begin to ask yourself many questions. Are you ready for a job? Will you be able to balance school and work? Will your parents be supportive of you working? Do you know enough to do a good job?

Many teens enter the workforce for various reasons. One major reason is for the independence of being able to purchase the things they want. Some teens work to pay for their private school tuition or for some other economic necessities. In addition, others work to gain employment experience for after high school.

Whatever the reason, this significant step requires parental guidance and involvement. It is important for teens and parents to know that there are benefits to be gained and drawbacks to avoid in being a working teen. Adding a part-time job to a full school schedule can be a positive or negative experience depending on how it is incorporated into the school schedule and family routine. The risks tend to occur when teens work more than 13 to 20 hours in a week.

The benefits include:

• Gain valuable work skills

• Acquire confidence

• Develop a sense of responsibility

• Feel more independent

• Learn responsible money management

• Explore career opportunities

The drawbacks are:

• Working more than 13 to 20 hours a week is associated with lower grades.

• Working too many hours makes it difficult to keep up with extracurricular activities and social relationships.

• Working long hours puts teens at higher risks for engaging in activities such as using illegal drugs or alcohol

Another factor to understand is the law regarding underage employment.

Under federal law:

• Children younger than 14 are restricted to delivering newspapers, working in a non-hazardous business owned by a parent, baby-sitting or doing other minor domestic chores in a private home, or performing on stage, screen or radio.

• They may work only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the school year and until 9 p.m. in the summer.

• At 14 and 15, teens may work at non-hazardous jobs for three hours on school days, eight hours on non-school days, 18 hours during a school week and 40 hours during a non-school week.

• At 16 and 17, teens may perform any non-hazardous job for any number of hours.

Some states impose stiffer restrictions. For Hawaii, the Labor Department will issue an Employment Certificate to minors under age 16 and an Age Certificate to minors ages 16 and 17.

For parents, talk to your teen to clearly understand what they want out of the job. Then discuss the importance of maintaining good grades, continuing extracurricular activities and keeping up with their social life. Talk to them about preparing a budget that includes savings as well as spending. This is a good time to consider making them responsible for expenditures (gas, auto insurance, movie tickets) that you have paid for in the past. Also reevaluate what chores your teen will be responsible for and when homework will be done.

Write all this down.

After your child has secured the job, continue your involvement by monitoring their progress through visits to the job site and meeting the supervisor; considering limiting their work hours at first to give them a chance to adjust; and consider limiting their work hours to only afternoons and weekends.

Once your teen has successfully adjusted to juggling work and school, help them understand what it takes to do a good job.

Always dress appropriately for the job.

Arrive on time.

Be respectful to employers, coworkers and customers.

If calling in sick, taking time off, give as much advance notice as possible.

Work at assigned tasks cheerfully and willingly.

Take criticism and/or instruction with good will.

A successful transition into the working world is critical for young people. Employment represents the teen’s maturity, increasing financial independence and growing sense of purpose and direction.

• Tram Vuong Meadows is the therapeutic foster home program therapist for Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i. She can be reached at, or Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i Inc., 2959 Umi St., Lihu‘e, 96766. A support group of adults in our Kaua‘i community have “stepped into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families. Please e-mail your questions and concerns facing our youth and families today to Mary Navarro, executive director of Hale ‘Opio, at


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