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Teens and Summer: Work Time or Play Time?

Teens and Summer: Work Time or Play Time?

Summer is finally here! The sun. The sand. The vacays we’ve all been waiting for. But in our house, while we like to take it easy and go lightly on the daily scheduling, it’s also a known fact with all of my kids that the year they turn 15 is the year they will begin working. I know, I’m a horrible mother. Or, so it would seem in this day and age. 

But, because I worked as a teen and know the work ethic that arose from that experience, I want my kids to have the same. If for no other reason than I can then stop telling them about how I’ve worked since the age of 13, about that summer I weeded tobacco fields in North Carolina, and about the time I was a waitress and a woman tried to put her cigarette out on my hand. If they have their own life lessons, they are much more effective than mine. (In case you’re wondering, they are collectively rolling their eyes as I type this).

Allowing our teens another summer with nothing but sleeping in and hanging out isn’t doing them any real favors. But, getting a summer job will help tremendously with the following:

Communication Skills

It’s like, you know, not texting, lol. Success in real life demands communication skills. We all need to learn how to deal with others in public, how to communicate respectfully, and how to know when to speak out and when to hold our tongues. Summer jobs are a great way for teens to experience all of these work lessons without putting too much on the line. They are also a good life lesson for a generation that hasn’t had to use verbal communication as much as the rest of us, or even had to use basic writing skills. Watch them ROFL when you tell them it’s time to get to work. 


Your teen will soon find that not every parent makes their child have a summer job. In fact, it seems that most don’t these days. So, you might get some push back as to the “fairness” of it all. But trust me, as soon as they receive that first paycheck, they’ll begin to understand the satisfaction of accomplishing something on their own. They’ll see that—for maybe the first time in their lives—their age doesn’t hold them back from accomplishing something great. The sacrifice they make will be worth the new sense of pride they gain.


With summer jobs fewer and farther between for teens, those who have been encouraged to work will likely have to make a serious effort to find something. Which means those kids will begin to stand out from their peers when it comes time to apply for college, technical school, or full-time jobs. And for many of our kids, as the age for many part-time jobs has risen to 18, younger teens will have to get creative or hit the bricks in ways they didn’t expect in order to find something. Learning to hone your skills and sell yourself as a good potential employee is a skill they’ll use for life. 

Money Appreciation

Handing your teen gas money like it grows on trees makes them begin to believe that you are their go-to cash cow. And while it might be fine in the beginning, they will soon get use to whatever amount you are willing to give, expect that as “their” money, and likely push you for more. Nothing teaches the value of money like your teen working hard for an entire hour only to realize they’ve barely made a handful of dollars. Suddenly, the 20 dollars you hand them for gas will seem like the gift it actually is. 

Okay I’m not totally heartless. I also believe that summer is about fun, and relaxation, and getting in some good old-fashioned downtime while we can. Because let’s face it; our teens will be out of our homes and into the working world soon enough. So do them a favor as they approach their mid-to-late teens and expect them to work. You’ll soon begin to see them edge toward adulthood in the best possible way. 

Laura Polk is a writer, speaker, and textile designer residing in North Carolina with her three children. Since becoming a single mom, her passion to minister to this group has led her to encourage successful single mom living through The Christian Single Mom on Facebook. Follow her journey through her blog or get a glimpse into her quirky thoughts and inspirations for design and writing on Pinterest.