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Summer Jobs for Teens Equal Cool Vibes

by Susan TeBos

The best thing I can do for my kids is to believe in them. One way I could do this well, beyond telling them “I believe in you,” was to ensure they pursued summer jobs when school let out. You might wonder how getting a job translates into believing in them. The benefits go beyond the spending cash right down to the way they feel about themselves.

When my three kids were old enough—okay, toddlers—helping around the house became a fun family affair. As their legs grew longer and their pants got shorter, we talked about jobs, setting the expectation early that, when they were old enough, they would get to work somewhere cool like the local grocery store, the nearby apple farm or our favorite ice cream shop. They were intrigued by the idea of working in these places and making money, but also a little apprehensive. I was intrigued by something bigger than money: the boost to their self-esteem and a whole lot more. Here’s why.

Most kids, if not all, will question their self-worth and purpose in their teen years. Some will even push back on a bunch of things you suggest because they don’t believe in themselves. I have three adopted kids who have found themselves there, struggling to believe in their worth. Early loss can do that to a person. For some, this “loss wound” can undermine how they feel about themselves. For example, one son struggles with social anxiety. If I asked him to run into the post office to buy a book of stamps while I waited in the car, he wouldn’t unless his younger brother went with him. Fear holds our kids back. With this guy, we started the job thing early to boost his confidence.

In his sixth grade year, I asked the school principal to help us out. He assigned our son to AV and sound for student chapel. It was scary for him at first, but participating like this helped him feel more confident, and bonus, he made friends too—a big win for anyone struggling with social anxiety. As he grew, the job grew. And as the job grew, he grew. By high school, he was the go-to guy for AV and sound for school plays, special speakers and important events. He couldn’t hit a ball with a bat to save his life, but he hit a home run working and volunteering. He likes to lead behind the scenes. It’s his motto. He went on to study film and AV in college. It was so cool to witness from the beginning something seemingly small added up to increased confidence.

All kids can benefit from volunteering or working a summer job, and not just for cash. Age is irrelevant to when they can start. Our kids were young when they washed the neighbors’ cars or dragged the trash barrel down the long drive for an older lady who paid well. Bless her heart. For me, it went deeper. Teens who work in moderation also learn how to balance school responsibilities and manage their time.

Here are some additional benefits, aka cool vibes, from working:

  • Increased self-esteem

  • Practice and mastery

  • Confidence

  • Responsibility

  • Self-control

  • Thinking of others

  • Stretching outside their comfort zone

  • Problem solving

  • Spending money

  • Time off the phones

And as young Christians, they get to practice their faith in real time in the real world while still under your roof.

With summer right around the corner and school out for most, the world of work awaits. So too the cool vibes your kids can earn to ramp up their self-esteem, along with the “cha-ching.” Believe in them. Encourage them to get a job. For those who push back from fear or insecurity, nudge gently. Start small. The benefits will grow as they grow. But you don’t have to tell them that. They’ll find out for themselves—and that’s the best way to learn how to believe in yourself.

Susan TeBos is the author of We’ve Been There: True Stories, Amazing Insights, and Aha Moments for Adopted Teens. She’s an adoptive mom of three and she and her family live in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She enjoys international travel, leading Bible studies at her church and various versions of dark chocolate. Find Susan online at


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