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When should teens start working?

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Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

FARGO - Ahh, children. One minute they're running around the house, making messes and screaming at the tops of their lungs. Then they grow into teenagers - and still - they run around making messes and screaming at the tops of their lungs.

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But eventually it's time to think about getting a summer job. So how do you know when they're ready for work?

"Well, one indication is what the teenager tells you," says Joel Hektner, associate professor in child development and family science at North Dakota State University.

Also, if the child is bored and lacks structured activity they may be ready, Hektner says. It's important for teenagers to have some structured activity even during the summer, he says.

Chuck Summers, clinical associate with Fargo-based Village Business Institute and a licensed associate marriage and family therapist, points to several considerations:

  • Are the child's friends having successful job experiences?
  • Has the child considered the logistics of getting to and from work and how the job will impact other activities?
  • Does the student have a history of success in other structured environments such as school and athletics?
  • Can they get themselves out of bed in the morning, and do they say "please" and "thank you," have good hygiene and get along with peers and adults?

Parents should also be aware that there are special federal labor laws related to workers under age 18. Get more information on child labor laws at www.dol.gov/compliance.

It may sound old-fashioned, but Summers says working helps a young person "learn the value of a dollar."

"Earning a dollar is different from being given a dollar," he says.

It also develops social skills, responsibility, independence, self-discipline and respect for authority and property, Summers says.

And Debra Pankow, family economics specialist with the NDSU Extension Service, says it can also boost self-esteem. And she says it's a good opportunity for parents to teach their children about money management, budgeting and taxes.

Hektner recommends parents have their children set aside some of their income for savings. Teens will tend to expect to do whatever he or she wants with their money, he says.

"If they're allowed to do that now when they're teenagers, it might lead to a rude awakening when they are adults" as well as poor money management decisions, Hektner says.

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