For young people, making the transition from education to work is always a challenge. For parents, it can be a time of great worry and stress, wanting to help but not knowing how. Push too hard and kids can feel suffocated, unable to make their own way on their own terms. Push too little and they may not make the effort needed, especially in an economy where finding work is tough. How can parents get it right?
A big step
The most important thing to understand is just what a big step this is. It’s easy, as an adult, to forget how hard it is to adjust to work – to build up the necessary fitness for a job involving manual activity, and to learn to knuckle down and get through the mentally exhausting parts of a desk job. Work requires confidence of a sort young people may not yet have acquired. Parents need to be sympathetic to this and reassure their children that they will come to find work easier. It can help to prepare them by gradually increasing the number of chores they’re asked to do in the home as they approach the time when they will start looking for work.
These days there are far fewer part-time and Saturday jobs available for teenagers, so many finish education without any real experience to help them get a job. This is an area where parents can often use their connections to help. Even a few hours per week in a voluntary position – preferably something the young person will enjoy – can make a big difference to work readiness and a big impression on employers. If job hunting doesn’t produce a paid position within the first couple of months, taking a voluntary position in the meantime can boost future employment prospects.
Although they may not realize it, parents have a lot of practical knowledge they can share with their children at this point in life. Schools are not always very good at teaching their students how to look through a contract, for instance, so a discussion of this subject can help to ensure your child isn’t exploited. Similarly, it’s useful to discuss how tax is paid in different professions so that your child doesn’t get off on the wrong foot.
Drug testing is now increasingly common in workplaces, so it’s helpful to teach children what an oral fluid lab test is to keep them from worrying, and let them know how to check with doctors and declare any prescription medication they are taking that could affect results. They will also need to understand that such testing is usually a routine measure and doesn’t mean they’re suspected of doing something wrong.
Making it meaningful
The single most important factor in helping young people adjust to working is giving them an understanding of why it matters. Little things such as giving rewards for completed chores can help to get them in the right mindset. Something most parents find tougher is the gradual withdrawing of other forms of financial support, but sooner or later they are going to have to become independent. Helping them with this is a great gift in itself.