You can do a lot at home to get teens ready for their first job. Here are six tips to help teens with learning and thinking differences walk onto the job feeling confident and capable.
1. Cultivate communication.
Teens with social skills issues can benefit greatly from role-playing at home. Your teen can practice business basics like shaking hands, making eye contact, and asking questions while you pose as a customer, co-worker, or supervisor. Discuss what personal information is (and isn’t) appropriate to share. (For instance, it’s fine for teens to discuss what they did last weekend — but probably not what medications they take.) Other ideas: doing mock job interviews, teaching basic phone etiquette, and having teens practice asking for help or .
2. Promote practical skills.
Your home can be a real learning lab. Teens who have math issues can organize the money in your wallet and work on making change. Teens who have trouble with reading or writing can practice writing down phone messages. Learning to work in the kitchen can boost organizational skills, not to mention help your teen find a food service position. If your teen leans toward an office position, encourage working on computer skills and helping you with filing.
3. Use chores to teach.
Chores help kids learn responsibility and basic skills without judgment or risk. To build organizational skills, put your teen in charge of sorting the family mail and tidying the TV room. Help your teen make a schedule and practice keeping up with it. Teens who have trouble following directions can use their phone to take video of how to do multi-step tasks, such as ironing shirts or washing the dog.
4. Teach timeliness.
Punctuality is important to employers. Some teens have challenges with and may lose track of time. You can help them develop strategies that will make it easier for them to be punctual. Teens can wear a watch and use the alerts and calendar features on a cell phone, if they have one. Be firm about teens showing up when expected, and praise them when they do.
5. Practice following directions.
On the job, supervisors may list several tasks at once. This can be a challenge for teens with executive functioning issues. Practice at home by giving your teen to-do lists. Then help develop strategies for remembering them. For example, if memorizing is difficult, your teen can practice taking notes on a small pad or record the list on a phone. You can also make some instructions unclear, so your teen can become comfortable asking questions to clarify what you want.
6. Help your teen volunteer.
Volunteering provides the opportunity for teens to gain practical experience. Since there’s no pay, those who bring teens on board are more likely to be supportive and patient. If your teen can’t find a position, use your personal network to help find opportunities. Perhaps a relative needs help at their shop. Or your church might need someone to answer phones. Through experience, teens will learn that they can work on their own.
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About the author
About the author
Peg Rosen writes for digital and print, including ParentCenter, WebMD, Parents, Good Housekeeping, and Martha Stewart.
Jim Rein, MA has lectured on postsecondary options and summer programs for kids and young adults with learning and thinking differences.