Claire Hailwood believes providing a regular taxi service to her children to take them to work is time well spent

First Job_v1 (1)

By 8:30am most Saturdays I have already delivered two teenagers to their places of work (voluntary and paid) and am home again, hoping to get back in to bed only to remember that the younger children still need taking care of! If I’m extra lucky then on some Saturday nights, I also get to drive somewhere within a 20-mile radius to collect another of said teenagers from their place of work helping at events.

I am sometimes resentful of this taxi-ing that I must do, but I do it because of the value that I see it adding to their lives. They get to learn valuable life skills in a work environment, transferable skills, customer service, how to manage an income (that doesn’t come from the bank of Mum and Dad), time management and hard work.

But recent press has been a reminder to me that this, like so many other areas, is not without risk. Sadly, workplaces are potentially another area that we need to prepare our children for, to have conversations about appropriate conditions for working, treatment of staff, abuse and use of power and appropriate touch. (See here).  It’s another occasion when fear makes me want to withdraw my kids to a place of complete safety preferably wrapped in cotton wool, yet I know that’s not the best long-term plan.

So as summer is underway and there are opportunities for more shifts at work, volunteer hours or a potential job hunt – is it appropriate for our children to be doing this? Is it something they should be doing or only if they ‘need’ to? Should we encourage or support it and if so, how?

In Colossians, the encouragement to Christian households is to work at whatever we do as though we’re working for God. It doesn’t answer the question specifically but speaks to the posture we should have in all things, echoing Romans 12 where we are encouraged to lay our whole lives before God as an offering. From Genesis onward, people have worked and made a living. God gifts us to be able to do that and it’s a privilege. For us raising children, perhaps part of our job is to equip and ready our children for the workplace and teach (and model) how to steward the resources He gives us?

Part of that will be looking for the right opportunities, which will involve us saying ‘yes’ to some things, but ‘no’ to others. Some offers may seem tempting but with a bit of research are ‘too good to be true’ or environment that no one would enjoy working in.

Here are some questions that you might want to consider with your young person, for them as they approach their first job, but also for all of us as when we have the privilege of choosing what to do for work

- What’s the atmosphere and the culture of the place? How does it feel when you’re there? What are the people who are there like? How safe and welcome did you feel?

- What is the job, and could you do it well? Would you enjoy it?

- What is God saying about this job and whether you should take it?

Encouraging good reflective skills is so important, and the answers to some of these questions may be super revealing, positively or not, and they matter in terms of deciding what’s next. And that might a joyful ‘yes’ and an excitement to apply and continue, or a painful ‘no’ and a wait for what’s right.

So how might we help prepare our teenager for a place of work for the first time. Here are four places to start

1. Talk about it

The foundation of any good relationship is conversation, from nonsense to profound and everything in-between. Talk about the workplace, share your experiences. Speak to the opportunities, the potential challenges and how you might approach them.

It doesn’t need to be a lecture (it probably shouldn’t be!) but a conversation – why not throw out some scenarios to your teenager and ask ‘what would you do if…’ and listen to what’s shared. Learning isn’t just one way so let’s be open to growing together.

2. Acknowledge the ‘parent-ness’ of what you share

Whether we’re parents, carers, aunties, uncles, or other important adults in these conversations, there are times when we really sound like a parent and that’s OK. There are things that I say to my kids that I’ll preface with ‘let me be a bit Mum-ish here’ and continue with ‘remember that if anything happens that you’re uncomfortable with or unsure of you can always call me and we can figure it out together’.

I enjoy (mostly) the eye roll that accompanies these moments because what I’m saying has become so familiar to them. And I hope it always remains so, because then if they need to call on me, they will remember.

3. Teach and model great stewardship

Not just when they get a job, but as we raise our children, we need to help them learn about money, its value and how to spend it well. For example, a shift’s wages can go in the blink of an eye on a set of beautiful acrylic nails done at a salon, leaving nothing for other things that are ‘needed’ (like shower gel) that month. I may or may not be speaking from personal experience recently in my home…

Lots of these lessons happen through mistakes made (see above) or by trying something which doesn’t work out in the way we intended. That’s OK. Our role is to set a great example in our approach to money, both in how we talk about it and use it, but also to help give our children some great principles around money, budgeting, giving and saving. And then to be supportive alongside them, journeying with them if, for example, they need to survive a couple of weeks with only budget shower gel. Just for example…

4. Celebrate the wins

That first day of work, the first pay that arrives in your child’s account, their first interview – they’re all milestones that only happen once. So, let’s celebrate. We get the privilege to be alongside, so let’s celebrate these things loudly and in a way that marks it in their memory for all the right reasons!