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5 Things I’ve Learned From My Daughter’s Summer Job

It’s Thursday morning at my house. I just finished making my daughter lunch and I’m looking for my keys to drive her. It feels like she’s back in high school but she is actually a rising college senior and has her first real full-time summer job in New York City. She asked me to make her lunch, and I was happy to oblige. Commuter parking is limited, which is why I am dropping her off at the train station every weekday.

While having her back at home feels familiar to me, I need to remember that she is an adult. She is commuting almost two hours a day, working long hours, and trying to take in as much as she can from this opportunity. I want to be supportive, but this time around help means taking a step back on some things I did for her when she was in high school.

5 Ways to Parent My Adult Child:

1. It’s her job, not mine.

When my kids were sick and needed to miss a day of school, it was my responsibility to call the attendance office. But that is a big NO now that my daughter has a job. There is never a reason for me to contact an employer. If my daughter is sick or needs to take a day off, she needs to be the one to let her boss know. Likewise, if she’s confused about an assignment or can’t complete a work task on-time, it’s fine to brainstorm and role play with her, but it is up to her to communicate any issues directly with her employer.

2. I have to treat her like an adult.

I don’t tell my spouse what time to get up for work. Nor do I tell him what time he needs to go to bed. I don’t set his alarm or wake him up for work. Admittedly, I did this for my daughter when she was in high school (which is also probably a mistake), but it’s definitely not my role anymore. If she is late to work or tired when she gets there because she stayed out with friends, it‘s not my problem.

3. I need to help her understand her finances.

A summer job is a great opportunity to teach high school and college-age kids about money management and financial literacy. My daughter needed to set up direct deposit and fill out some other employee forms. So we sat down with her to explain how it all worked, including explaining tax forms and filing.

Although we wouldn’t tell her how to spend her paycheck, we have discussed budgeting with her. She doesn’t pay us rent, but she does have commuting expenses, meals, clothing, and other expenses, so we are helping her to understand allocation, savings, and spending in preparation for graduating next year and living on her own.

4. I need to be interested, but considerate.

I remember my own parents peppering me with questions when I got home from working my first real job. It was exhausting. All I wanted to do was eat dinner and go to my room. I’m trying to respect the fact that my adult child may not be in the mood to talk when she gets home and I remind myself that it is not her intention to be rude. When she wants to talk about work, I’m interested and supportive.

5. I need to be a good role model.

This is probably my daughter’s last summer home, and I’ll admit I would love for her to play hooky and head to the beach with me. But while my freelance work allows me that kind of freedom, it isn’t something I should advocate for her. She has a professional obligation now, even if it’s just for the summer, and I want her to develop a strong work ethic. Good impressions on bosses and co-workers can lead to possible full-time employment after graduation or glowing letters of recommendation to future employers. The beach will have to wait for weekends.

This summer job is an excellent opportunity for my daughter to learn and mature, but I know new situations can be daunting. I’m focused on my new role—to support and encourage her in any way I can—while treating her like the adult she has become.

Randi Mazzella

Randi Mazzella is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, midlife issues, and family life. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including The Washington Post, The Fine Line and The Girlfriend. She is a frequent contributor to Your Teen for Parents. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

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