You can do a lot at home to ready your teen for her 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, coworker or supervisor. Discuss what personal information is (and isn’t) appropriate to share. (For instance, it’s fine for a teen to discuss what she did last weekend—but not what medications she takes.) Other ideas: mock job interviews, teaching basic phone etiquette, and having her practice asking for help or accommodations.
2. Promote practical skills.
Your home can be a real learning lab. If your teen has math issues, she can organize the money in your wallet and work on making change. If your teen has trouble with reading or writing, she 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 her to polish up her computer skills and help 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 her make a schedule and let her practice keeping up with it. If your teen has trouble following directions, she can use her 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. Does your teen have executive functioning issues that cause her to lose track of time? Help her develop strategies that will make it easier for her to be punctual. Encourage her to wear a watch and use the alerts and calendar features on her cell phone, if she has one. Be firm about her showing up when she’s expected to, and praise her when she does.
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 her develop strategies for remembering them. For example, if memorizing is an issue, she can practice taking notes on a small pad or record the list on her phone. You can also make some instructions unclear, so your teen can become comfortable asking questions to clarify what you want.
6. Help her volunteer.
Volunteering provides the opportunity for your teen to gain practical experience. Since there’s no pay, those who bring her on board are more likely to be supportive and patient. If your teen can’t find a position on her own, use your personal network to help her find opportunities. Perhaps a relative needs help at their shop or your church might need someone to answer phones. Through experience, your teen will learn she has the ability to work on her own.