Approximately one in five American high schoolers has a job. Learn how to tell if your teen is ready to work and how you can assist in the job search process.

An after school job may provide your teenager with a bit of freedom and extra money, but the self-development growth she experiences may provide more long-term benefits. Diana Wilhold, director of school outreach and youth development at BJC HealthCare, believes the life skills teenagers develop while working can be invaluable and often outweigh the potential drawbacks. Making that judgment call, however, requires having an honest conversation with your child.

“You need to figure out if your child has what it takes to be successful before he jumps in feetfirst,” Wilhold says. “Is he mature enough? Does he have enough time to dedicate to work between school, homework and extracurricular activities?”

The next step is to explore what kind of positions mesh with your teenager’s personality and strengths.

“Discuss her likes, dislikes and what she is good at,” Wilhold says. “If she is talkative, for instance, a job in a community setting might be ideal. Does she work well with children? Maybe babysitting or working at a day care or summer camp would be a good fit.”

In addition to school guidance counselors and local job search websites, remember that your child’s friends can also be great resources. Since they likely share similar interests, knowing what they are doing and where they are working can be key to finding the perfect position.

Hitting the Pavement

Once your child is ready to start filling out applications, it is important for you to recognize when to sit back and let your teenager take the lead.

“A parent’s role is to coach teenagers through this transition,” Wilhold says. “If you find that you are doing all the pushing—if you are filling out the applications and making the phone calls—you may be preventing your child from establishing the essential skills needed in a work setting.”

Instead, Wilhold recommends focusing your efforts on making sure your teenager is prepared.

“Help your teenager decide what details to include on her resume, such as volunteer experience and extracurricular activities; role-play the conversation that might take place during an interview; review applications for spelling or grammatical errors; teach her essential interpersonal skills, such as saying ‘thank you’ and maintaining eye contact while speaking; and have the conversation about what to do if she does not hear back from a job,” Wilhold says. “Many of the retail places where young people tend to apply often do not give responses or feedback. Preparing your teen for that outcome will help him maintain his optimism and prevent feelings of rejection and disappointment.”

High school students age 16 and older can apply to be a volunteer at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. To learn more, visit