Leaving high school

12 Steps for Easing the Transition to Work

By Kate Kelly

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A positive first job experience can be a big self-esteem booster for teens with learning and attention issues. If your child is gearing up for his first job or vocational training, you can do a lot to prepare him for success. Encourage him to follow these steps to smooth the transition.

Keep in mind that if your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), transition planning services can help him prepare, too.


Practice the commute.

With your child, do a dry run at the same time and day of the week he’ll start work. Time how long it takes.


Figure out lunch.

Before your child’s first day, have him check out the lunch options and assess whether there’s time to order and eat. Remind him to ask where people who bring their lunches eat.


Know who to call or email.

Make sure your child has a point person (and their phone number and email) to contact if he’s sick or running late.


Understand how work schedules are communicated.

If your child’s hours change each week, he needs to know how to get access to the new schedule. Don’t assume someone will give it to him directly.


Determine the best way to keep track of the schedule.

Ask your child what works for him: Take a picture of the schedule with his phone? Text it to himself? Note it on a calendar?


Work on time management skills.

Have your child strategize how he’ll get to work on time. For example, maybe he can lay out clothes the night before. Find other ways to practice time management skills.


Fill out the forms.

In some states, teens need working papers in order to get a job. Often these can be issued by your child’s school or by the State Department of Labor. And like any employee, your teen is required to fill out IRS forms like the W-4. These forms can be confusing, and your child might need your help.


Open a bank account.

If he’s paid by direct deposit, he’ll need a bank account to complete his first-day paperwork. If he gets an actual check, he needs a way to cash it.


Plan for downtime.

Your child may be less busy than he was at school. Talk about interests he can pursue, activities at faith-based and other organizations, or maybe joining a gym.


Look for social opportunities.

A job doesn’t provide a network of people his own age like school does. To avoid loneliness, he may need to make friends outside of work.


Practice asking for help.

Self-advocacy is key for young people with learning and attention issues in the workplace. If your child is confused by instructions, for instance, it could impact his work. Help him identify who to talk to and practice what he could say.


Consider a job coach.

A job coach can help your child succeed at work. Try finding one through the school’s vocational program. If your child has an IEP, his case manager may have information, too.

About the Author

Portrait of Kate Kelly

Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Jenn Osen Foss

Jenn Osen-Foss, M.A.T., is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions and co-planning.

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