By Maria Romaszkan
For many teens, summer is for a well-deserved rest after the demands of the school year. However, some teens prefer to spend their summer more productively. Teens with ADHD — devoid of their school routine and unable to meet with their vacationing friends— may especially profit from a summer job.
We asked experts to share the benefits of a summer job for ADHD teens, and the tips to help them succeed.
Why Your ADHD Teen Should Get a Summer Job
A summer job can be a great idea to do something productive in the summer and earn some cash, but there are many more benefits for teens with ADHD. Those benefits include:
• Helps boost self-esteem and confidence
Succeeding at a summer job can boost a teen’s confidence and self-esteem, which teens with ADHD often have trouble with.
“Building small successes is important for kids with ADHD because they get so much negativity coming at them elsewhere,” says Dana Baker-Williams, an ADHD teen coach from the San Francisco Bay Area. “If they manage the work, they may feel that sense of accomplishment and pride which is so needed.”
• Can improve executive function skills
A summer job is an excellent opportunity for a teen to practice their organizational skills and learn to manage their symptoms in a practical setting.
“With any summer job will come responsibilities,” says Jamie Blume, a Denver-based ADHD coach and founder of Along Their Way. “And for a teenager with ADHD, those responsibilities open opportunities to develop and practice time management, task prioritization and focus.”
• Provides a chance to train social skills
Most jobs involve interaction with other people — including customers. Social situations can often be stressful and difficult for teenagers with ADHD. A summer job can help them develop better communication and interpersonal skills.
“If they’re working, they will likely need to be friendly and helpful, meaning they will be practicing socialization skills,” says Baker-Williams. “At a job, they may have to interact with customers or even handle people who are upset, which can teach them conflict resolution and communication skills.”
• Provides real work experience
A summer job can be a first taste of real work experience for a teen. It allows them to experience different jobs to understand their interests better and plan their future career.
This can also be an opportunity for a teen to learn how to manage money and pay taxes.
Job Ideas for Teens with ADHD
Perhaps your teen already knows what they want to do, or there is a particular place they wish to apply to. It’s also possible they do not know what work suits them best. In that case, you can help them make a list of their strengths and weaknesses.
You can also talk to them about their interests and goals. Perhaps your teen wants to get some experience for a career they wish to pursue as an adult.
Here are a few ideas for summer jobs for ADHD teens:
- Shop assistant or server: If your teen likes interacting with other people, retail or food service jobs may be a good choice.
- Camp counselor: For those teens with plenty of energy to spare and who like kids, applying to become a camp counselor or a swim instructor could be a great idea.
- Landscaping assistant: If your teen is more introverted and likes to spend plenty of time in nature, they might try gardening and landscaping. These kinds of jobs also provide a tangible result, which can be rewarding and motivating.
- Working with animals: Jobs like dog walking, pet sitting or helping out at a local shelter are fantastic choices for animal lovers. The jobs also offer plenty of physical activity.
Tips for Teens: How to Succeed at a Summer Job
There are obvious ways to be better prepared for a job, such as punctuality, wearing suitable clothing or being polite. But when you are a teen with ADHD, what else can you do to succeed at your summer job? Here are some tips:
• Adjust routine before starting the job
Routine is vital for ADHD brains. If you already have spent some of your summer sleeping in, suddenly needing to wake up early can be challenging and disorienting.
It’s a good idea to slowly adjust your routine a week or even two before starting your job.
• Stay organized
“Focus on time management and sort of ‘life management,'” says Baker-Williams. “Use a calendar or planner to keep track of your hours, the job duties and any deadlines you need to meet. Chunk big tasks down into smaller ones — the same way you would do homework so you don’t get overwhelmed.”
Try also to pack and prepare clothes every night instead of in the morning. This will help you avoid fumbling around for things when you’re half awake. And it will make your morning routine more efficient.
• Don’t rely on your memory
It’s easy to get distracted and forget things when you have ADHD, and the added stress of starting a job can make your memory more unreliable.
“Using a notepad to write down notes of conversations helps the ADHD teen keep track of expectations, instructions and due dates,” says Blume. “Tracking conversations (with notes) will help avoid overwhelm, as it will be easier to differentiate between helpful background information and information necessary to perform a particular task.”
• Know your rights
Teens and their caregivers should be aware of young workers’ rights and be able to advocate for them if the need arises.
The U.S. Department of Labor has a comprehensive resource page about the rights and responsibilities of young workers, including which sectors they can work in and what the minimum wage is.
• Consider whether to disclose your ADHD
Employees are not required to disclose their ADHD. Think hard about whether you want to disclose that — because it may, unfortunately, complicate things. Some employers can show a complete lack of understanding or see it as an excuse.
Can Your Teen Ask for Job Accommodations?
If you decide to disclose your ADHD, you can then ask for appropriate accommodations.
One is a form of communication better suited to you, such as visual aids.
“It may help you to have the job tasks written down or placed where you can see them as reminders — like checklists or a chart of where things are and how to stay organized,” says Baker-Williams.
Blume also recommends asking for regular meetings with your supervisor. “You could ask for a meeting each day at the beginning and end of your shift to review expected work and deadlines,” she says. “These meetings also provide an opportunity to clarify uncertainty and set task priority.”
Other accommodations to consider are:
- Using noise-canceling headphones
- Asking for more frequent but shorter breaks
- Having a designated quiet place you can go to calm down or refocus
- Having a more experienced coworker to shadow
- Having a flexible work schedule