Question: I’m a 14-year-old boy, and I can tell that my parents are struggling financially. They try to hide this from my two younger sisters and me, but I can tell something is up. My question is if I should get a tutoring job so I can help my parents. I don’t want to insult them, but on the other hand, I really want to help them. I figured out that I could make almost $200 a week. Should I take the job?
Answer: This is one of the more impressive emails that I’ve received over the past few weeks. You sound like a very mature young man, and I’m sure your parents get a lot of nachas from you.
Your parents are very smart people. In most cases, it’s much better for parents not to tell their children when they are going through financial difficulties. Stress can be overwhelming, and children have a lot on their heads without having to worry about money. I’ve heard many adults comment, “Kids have it so simple,” but it’s really not true. School, tests, social issues, and more can all be stressful parts of childhood. Adding financial worries to the mix can cause serious issues.
When parents do need to tell their children about money, it should be done in a simple, non-stressful way. For example, a friend of mine lost his job a few years ago. He called in his older kids and told them as follows: “I’m not sure if you’ve realized, but I’ve been home the past few days. I’m no longer working for XYZ, and I’m in the middle of finding a new job. Therefore, for the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be a little more careful about what we buy. We’ll be OK, and I’ll have a new job very soon, iy’H.”
You mentioned you could get a job tutoring. If you can pull it off without overdoing it, I think it’s a great idea. However, I don’t think you should be using the money to help your parents; rather, you should be saving your income. You can use your own money if you’re purchasing something for yourself.
It is very responsible that you want to help out, and having a strong work ethic is a great way to succeed in life. I know a few people who feel it’s important for teenagers to chip in, since it helps them understand and appreciate the value of money. A family I know in Monsey has all their children over the age of 13 pay 10 percent of the electric bill. This way they understand the consequence of leaving the lights on or the A/C running.
I think most parents in this situation would want you to save your money. Ask them to help you open a savings account and start depositing your earnings.
Wishing your family nachas and parnassah.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly emails and read the comments, visit YidParenting.com.