Parents can help teenagers enormously by helping them become more aware of the importance of developing employment skills. However, it’s vital to avoid increasing stress for teenagers when the topic of future employment possibilities and employment skills come up. Preparation is the key to minimising stress for young people while increasing their self-confidence both in the short and long term.
There are very practical ways parents can help teenagers develop invaluable employment skills.
What skills can parents help teenagers acquire and strengthen? How?
1. The ability to remain calm, rational and reasonable in potentially stressful situations
Like children, teenagers need constant practice learning to handle stress well. Just as you did when they were children, don’t always rush over to prevent them falling or throw your arms around them if they do fall. Give your teens time to pick themselves up. Giving them increasingly greater tastes of responsibility also helps them to function well under pressure. Model remaining calm and reasonable when things go wrong in your own family. Don’t automatically hit the roof. And if you occasionally do, explain that you shouldn’t have reacted this way and how you could have reacted in a more rational way.
2. The ability to think, problem solve and take the initiative to make decisions in new and unfamiliar situations
Teenagers will only learn these skills when given opportunities to make decisions and to solve problems. Involving teenagers in discussions about good or poor decisions other people have made can teach them what you see as admirable behaviour. Discuss how someone could have solved a problem more positively. Comment on how a disastrous situation could have been avoided. There are countless examples in everyday media stories.
3. The ability to work well in a team to address new challenges
For many teenagers, being involved in team sports is the main way they learn invaluable team skills. Part time work, music or other school activities as well as voluntary work are other excellent opportunities to learn more team skills. Encourage your teenager to be involved in team activities of some kind.
4. A willingness and positive attitude to being a constant learner
Talk about the importance of education and ongoing education when the opportunity arises naturally rather than instigating a special discussion. This avoids teenagers labelling this as preaching. Talk about your own professional development or ongoing studies as being exciting. Show that ongoing learning is also a way to advance your current career or open up new career options. Talk about colleagues who have completed additional studies to gain promotions or to change career direction. Give the message that ongoing learning is positive not negative.
5. An openness to well-thought-out risk taking
The teenage years are well known as being the high risk-taking years that all parents dread. By providing teenagers with safe risk-taking opportunities, parents can minimise the high and scary risk taking. Consider making your teenager’s next birthday present a voucher for a rock climbing experience, sky diving or another taste of adventure you know she would enjoy. Equally, a risk-taking move for a teenager could be to ask someone to go to their school formal or to audition for a major part in a school production. Give your teenager important messages such as ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ and ‘No guts, no glory’. But make sure your teenager knows you are proud of her for even trying. It’s not about winning. We all learn from every experience we have of venturing out of our comfort zone.
6. The ability to bounce back when things don’t work out as expected – personal and career resilience
There will be many times when your teenager hits a wall during the adolescent years. Don’t judge or preach. Praise your teenager’s efforts to succeed and encourage him to get up and try again. Once again, every situation of ‘failure’ teaches us something about ourselves, life and others. Help your teenager look for the positive in any negative situation. Humour helps a lot! It goes without saying that good parents laugh with their teens, not at them. The consequences of the latter could be dire.
7. A willingness to listen to others and follow advice and instructions in new and unfamiliar settings
One of the quickest ways for teenagers to learn this is through part time work. Another great learning opportunity can be found by joining school clubs and becoming a school leader. These generally require students to work closely with teachers and then to communicate to other students which always involves listening and taking on advice from others.
8. The ability to be brave and lead change
Sadly, sometimes teenagers learn to be brave by standing up for other students who are being bullied or facing bulling themselves. It’s important to openly discuss bullying with children and teenagers. They need to hear parents say that standing up for people who are being mistreated in any way is the right thing to do. From the time they start secondary school, students can also consider joining their school’s SRC. This is a way to have a voice in issues that directly affect students and a way to lead and help to affect positive change. Encourage your teen to join their SRC or other school groups.
9. A high level of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills to read others and support them in these new and challenging situations
Once again, these can all be developed through involvement in school groups, part time work and voluntary work. When opportunities arise, parents can also comment on the importance of emotional intelligence by giving real life examples from their friends, work colleagues or even as seen in behaviour of popular TV characters. Young people can learn the importance of empathy and other interpersonal skills by hearing parents speak in glowing terms about a friend or colleague who displays these.
10. Initiative, persistence, determination and a sound work ethic to ride the ups and downs of unpredictable and constantly changing situations
These great skills become stronger through constant practice. At every opportunity, praise your teenager’s efforts and displays of initiative. Actively give your teenager tastes of responsibility and trust. Be ready to react calmly when you are disappointed. Explain that you believe your teenager has what it takes to be trusted again. School results are the perfect opportunity to teach persistence and determination. Most teenagers find a particular subject more challenging than others. Encourage your teenager to persist despite not liking it. Provide moral and even practical help if you can but ultimately praise every little taste of success and certainly every display of effort.
11. Great communication skills to negotiate change, communicate expectations and new solutions
Once again, part time jobs and voluntary work generally help teenagers improve their ability to communicate and negotiate. The process of finding both part time jobs and voluntary work also helps teenagers improve their communication skills. Family talks around the dinner table can also help teenagers become better communicators. Although it can often be difficult, having at least one meal together as a family has enormous benefits for teenagers.
12. A high level of ethics
Parents can model ethics in a million ways. Every day there are issues covered in the media that involve ethical dilemmas. Discuss these in your home. Give your opinion and ask your teenager to do the same. Openly talk about the things you stand for. Help your teenager develop an appreciation of the importance of being a loyal friend, an honest worker, a reliable and trustworthy student.