I have had a new experience as a parent, watching both of my teenagers get their first jobs. It has been interesting listening to them explain what they’ve learned, both practically with regard to the job itself, and the learning that comes along with navigating around the drama of working with other people and serving the public.
This experience has not been without stress, however, as my husband and I have had to juggle our own schedules to ensure we can get our kids to and from their respective responsibilities. However, the inconvenience has been absolutely worth it as I have observed my children grow up into responsible people contributing to their communities.
Having a part-time job as an adolescent provides our children with opportunities to learn new skills, build social capital and have purpose. Employment enables our children to assume responsibility. Personal responsibility and serving the community, two positive attributes that accompany work, are also developmental assets that serve as protective factors for our children and help to build resiliency.
Research tells us that children who are required to be helpful and demonstrate responsibility in the home tend to be more resilient adults. I think of it as providing our kids with an armour, so that the negative psychological implications of trauma are less likely to stick. Given the sheer number of challenges facing our kids today, it’s critically important that we consider how to instill resilience into our kids.
The good news is that the research in this area also tells us that resilience can be fostered — you aren’t just born with it or not. Therefore, understanding what experiences help our kids to develop resiliency is essential. And that brings me back to how do we ensure that our kids can demonstrate responsibility?
This morning, I watched my eldest daughter sing softly to herself while getting ready to go to work. I felt immense pride. Work was not some onerous thing that she has to do, but rather a vital component of her day that she looks forward to doing. This is what resilience looks like in the making.
“All of these experiences are challenging, yet enriching.”
My own kids did not just jump into their first part-time jobs without any preparation. There has been a long history of events that got them ready for this new experience. Here are the ways that I was able to prepare my kids, and how you can build responsibility in yours.
Get them to garden, cook, clean, etc. Little ones love being helpful! Sometimes it’s more work to include your child in meal preparation; however, the process is what matters to their development, not how pretty the cake comes out at the end.
My eldest child was actively involved in her student’s council, and she learned how to get along with others, and the need to be persistent when advocating for change as a result of this valuable experience.
My second child is a rower, and she has volunteered at regattas and related events. She has to work hard to bring the boats into and out of the water. She also needs to be available for introductory workshops where she explains the pros and cons to potential newcomers and curious members of the public. All of these experiences are challenging, yet enriching. These are just some of the ways that we have been able to get our kids ready to be responsible young adults.