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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

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All Experience is Valuable

My son is jonesing to make money but he’s only 12. This got me thinking: where do tweens or even young teenagers find opportunities to gain work experience before they are eligible to get a work permit?

He’s always asking why he can’t get a job, and I constantly explain, “Sorry, your job is school!” Besides, it is against the law to leave school to start working a full-time job before the age of 18 and even then, children cannot work during school hours or before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m.  In Virginia, children under the age of 14 cannot be issued a work permit.

At 12, I was a hostess at a family friend’s Chinese restaurant and also babysat. But even before that I was working alongside my dad selling espadrilles at flea markets on the weekends. I know being given these opportunities when I was young and eager to work made me into the financially responsible person that I am today.

Ever since my son can remember, he has volunteered alongside me at Senior Luncheons at our church and has been my sidekick at pet sits “working” with cats and dogs.

Last year, he jumped at the opportunity to work for a day with a friend’s dad building a deck. During the spring, he worked the concession stand at his little brother’s little league games and, just last week, he watered plants for five days for his grandmother’s neighbor.

His grandmother also offers him lots of opportunities to earn extra cash for doing yard work and shoveling snow in the winter. Her neighbors have taken notice and now ask when he’s available to do odd jobs for them.

Watering his grandmother’s neighbor’s flowers came from him being entrepreneurial in 2020 when he offered this same neighbor his newly hatched praying mantises for their flower garden. They were very grateful and remembered him.

With age brings greater responsibility at our house. He babysits his younger brother and is now strong enough to mow the lawn. We have a garden and whatever excess fruits or vegetables he picks he sells to neighbors. His entrepreneurial spirit has even led him to teach his brother to play the piano. These extra opportunities allow him to share his experience regarding what he’s already learned, build his patience with others and earn some cold hard cash.

While some of these jobs were paid and others were volunteer opportunities, he always takes pride in his work and remembers to split his earnings into his four bank accounts: saving, giving, investing and spending.

In an unofficial Facebook poll, these additional ideas were suggested for eager tweens and young teens:

  • Volunteer at the library/church
  • Work at farmers markets and stands
  • Babysitting, pet sitting, watering plants
  • Sports helper
  • Mowing lawns in the summer/shoveling driveways in the winter

Be entrepreneurial!

All experience is valuable. Showing that they take their “job” seriously and with the utmost responsibility as a tween may open doors for more work and/or being recommended for entry-level positions when they get a work permit.

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Nikki Ducas
Nikki Ducas is a freelance writer and for the past 8+ years writes the money column for Fredericksburg Parent & Family Magazine. She has lived in Fredericksburg for 16 years with her husband and is a homeschooling mom to their two boys. Nikki enjoys hiking, knitting and her other side hustles of pet sitting and event management.

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