If our teens aren’t busy spending their extracurricular time studying, involved in activities or sports then there is a chance that they are holding down a part-time job earning some extra money. If you have a teen who is getting ready for their first job working with the public, there are some things you can do to prepare them and to make them, and you, feel safer.
The Customer is Always Right
There are definite advantages with working in a public facing job. Having customer service experience can go a long way on a teen’s resume. Ideally, your teen will get training from their employer regarding how to handle difficult customers and what the policies are regarding refunds, returns, and complaints. As a parent and caregiver, be sure to check in with your teen and give them space to talk about customers who tried their patience or customers who made their day. It’s important for teens to learn that workplaces have managers and procedures to deal with these very issues and they should know who to go to while at work if there is an issue.
From performing duties that seem dangerous (lifting heavy things, operating dangerous equipment) to arriving first or leaving last; there are many safety considerations teens need to be thinking about outside of their typical job description. With some planning and self-advocacy, they can stand up for themselves and let their employer know when they do not feel safe or when they want to talk through how to make a situation safer.
Maybe they are going to be the last employee and are responsible to lock up at the end of the night. Ideally, the business has a policy in place that wouldn’t allow for that. Your teen should know they can advocate for having a second employee at closing time (in addition to having well-lit parking lots, parking spots for employees that are close to the doors, or the ability to call security to walk them to their car).
Perhaps there is some seemingly dangerous kitchen appliances that they are told to turn on or operate. If they haven’t received proper training, that could be a safety hazard. Teenagers want to be helpful and impress others, so chances are they might just do as they are told. Again, they need to know it is ok to ask questions and to say no if they do not feel safe.
Unfortunately, in some cases, our teens may end up bullied or even sexually harassed by a co-worker (if they are underaged, this could be investigated as a form of child sexual abuse). As a parent or caregiver, it is our responsibility to keep our kids safe and notice any signs. You will need to react responsibly and that might include making a report to law enforcement or child protective services.
At Darkness to Light, we have a game called What If? You might think it would be too young to play with your teens, but it is the perfect way to engage them in thinking through new situations they will find themselves in while at a new job and how they might handle it.
What if a customer is raising their voice at you? What would you do?
What if you are the last employee to leave? How can you be safe?
What if a co-worker or even your manager crosses a boundary with you?
Who can you call if you feel unsafe?
These are just some of the questions you can pose to your teens to get them to think about a potential situation BEFORE they find themselves in it. This way, they have already though about a possible solution and talked to you about it.
CALL 866.FOR.LIGHT OR TEXT LIGHT TO 741741
You are not alone — if you encounter child sexual abuse, resources and support are available. Call to have questions answered or chat with a trained crisis counselor, 24/7 at no charge. All conversations are confidential.