Do you remember your first job as a teen? No doubt you had butterflies in your stomach as you thought about meeting your co-workers and learning all about your new job. Going off to work for the first time can be scary and a little tough for anyone but it’s even harder for a teen with ADHD. They have a lot of obstacles to overcome but it’s also a great opportunity.
A part-time job will help teach your teen independence and build self-esteem that will help put him on a path to success. It’s not always an easy path but he can do it and there are ways for you to help make his transition into the workforce a little easier.
How to Prepare Your ADHD Teen for His First Job
Help your teen look for a job that allows him to use some of the skills he’s already learned.
Finding a job that matches the skill sets he already has will ease some of his tension and anxiety because he will feel more confident doing something he’s already good at. He’ll also enjoy his work a lot more and that will reflect in his performance and attitude. For my son, we began with neighborhood yard work, landscaping, and other physical labor because those are jobs he’s been doing around our own house for many years. When he applied for his “real job,” he chose a local bbq restaurant that catered to veterans and community servants. Since Ben is a part of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets and desires a career in the Navy, this was the perfect choice for him and has been one of the best decisions he’s made to date.
Explain what being a good employee means in a way your teen can understand.
This includes things like following the dress code, being a team player, staying a little late some shifts and being polite and courteous to everyone he meets. Stress the importance of following directions and not acting on impulse. This is the type of behavior managers and supervisors expect in a workplace. If needed, he can even take notes so he doesn’t forget all the things he is supposed to do during his shift. A small pocket notebook is a huge help for this.
Even if your teen’s “boss” is the neighbor down the street who hired him to mow the grass, impress upon your teen the importance of treating that job like a real job and your neighbor like a real boss. Be respectful, courteous, on time, and hard working. All the time.
Help him establish good work habits.
You’ll likely need to help your ADHD teen with organizational skills in particular. For example, if he works first shift then he should get everything ready the night before. When he gets up in the mornings, everything is organized and ready for the day. It will help get the day off to a great start and ensure that he arrives to work on time each day. Also insist on a healthy, nourishing breakfast, daily shower, and clean clothes. I know it sounds like those things should already be routine, but we’re talking about teens here, and for boys especially, these may not be habits he has cared to establish yet.
Explain to your teen that discussing personal issues at work is not appropriate.
ADHD kids are notorious talkers, often sharing a little too much information. Stress to your teen that his job is not the right environment for talking about problems he’s having, concerns at home, or anything else personal. However, let him know that it is alright to discuss the latest news, sports, interests, school, or similar topics when making small talk with co-workers.
Create a schedule for your teen to follow to help him get up, get ready and get to work on time.
If your ADHD teen is like mine, he’s been sleeping in for years, and without your nudging, would likely be late for everything. This can make a new job challenging, so creating a schedule ahead of time that encourages an earlier bedtime and wake time will help set a course for success. Also, many jobs require employees to arrive a few minutes early to give time to clock in and be at the workstation when the shift starts. He’ll need to understand this and build that extra time into his morning. Have your teen use alarms or phone reminders for his wake time, taking medicines, appointments, or when he needs to leave home to get to work on time.
It’s also a good idea for him to build a complimentary schedule for his other activities around his work schedule. For example, if your teen is homeschooled, he may need to adjust his homeschool day around his work schedule. My son never turns down an opportunity to do work extra shifts, no matter the time of day. This may mean he needs to be flexible and do his school work in the evening or on a Saturday.
Work on good communication skills.
Good communication and social skills are a must in the workplace. Help your teen practice these skills at home so he will feel more confident and relaxed talking with customers, co-workers, and managers. Stress the importance of being polite and courteous always and to exercise patience, even when things don’t go according to plan. Your ADHD teen may struggle with discussing his scheduling needs, concerns, or requests with his boss. Be present (if he’s talking by phone) to offer reassurance or gentle the first few times he needs to have these conversations. If he will speak with his boss in person, have him practice what he will say ahead of time and offer suggestions then.
Let him know you are proud of him.
The last thing you can do to help your ADHD teen succeed in his first job is to praise him every day for a job well done. It’s important for him to know you’re proud of him for going to work and putting forth his best effort to do a great job. This type of reinforcement will encourage him to stick with it and keep trying even when things are tough.
It may be difficult for you to send your teen out into the workplace knowing all the challenges he’ll face but it’s one of the best things you can do for him. You’re giving him a chance to contribute to the family, increase in maturity, and prove to himself that he is capable. That last one is especially important and can be life-changing for your ADHD teen. You’re also helping him learn how to take care of himself, budget his money, deal with conflict, and other important life skills. These are some of the best things you can do to build confidence in your ADHD teen.