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Your Child Today: Middle School

Ready for Work?

Long before he?s ready for job fairs and resumes, your child can start preparing for a future in the working world.

In fact, kids in middle school are at the ideal age to begin working for others and polishing the skills they?ll need in the future.

Steve Otfinoski, author of The Kid?s Guide to Money (Scholastic), explains that early exposure to working gives your child the experience, preparation and self-confidence necessary to succeed when she?s older. "When you work, you learn many important things, such as the value of money, how to do a job well and how to deal with other people," says Otfinoski.

How can you tell if your child is ready for a job? First, take a look at his attitude toward work around the home. Is he willing to take on new responsibilities such as walking the dog or taking out the garbage? Are his social and personal expenses outstripping his allowance? If so, now might be a good time to talk to your child about getting a part-time job.

To start, invite your child to your office for an hour or two. Point out how those around you interact with one another: politely and with respect, cooperating and paying attention to the needs of those around them. If you work at home or someplace that discourages visits, you can still talk about things like punctuality, accuracy and dependability. Check out community programs like babysitting clinics or lifeguarding classes that help prepare children for working.

Then consider what types of jobs are right for your child. Sit down and talk about some possibilities. Does your daughter like to play with younger children? Maybe babysitting is the place to start. Does your son enjoy spending time outside? En courage him to seek out people in your neighborhood who might need help mowing the lawn or shoveling snow.

Other ideas might include stacking firewood, pet sitting or picking up the mail and newspaper for neighbors on vacation. One 15-year-old has even written a book offering practical suggestions for young job seekers. In Kid Cash (McGraw-Hill), Joe Lamancusa gives 40 proven ideas your kids might want to try.

Once your child begins to earn some money, take advantage of the opportunity to talk about wise money management. Ask questions like: How much should I spend? How much should I save? How do we pay taxes and why? What is tithing? Show her a checkbook register and your family?s budget. Discuss how much your family spends on living expenses and charitable giving. Together, develop a plan for your child?s saving and giving that reflects your family?s values as well as her own heartfelt concerns.

By giving your child an early taste of the working world, you?ll instill a sense of responsibility, trustworthiness and stewardship that will give him a great start on the road to adulthood.

?Sandra Byrd
author, mother of two

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