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Size up workplace safety before your teen takes a job

Question: My 15-year-old son is talking about getting a job, which I think is a good idea. I know it helped with my work ethic and made me appreciate money more than if it had just been given to me. However, I'm concerned about his safety, depending upon where he works. I know I have to let loose at some time, but what are some of the things that I should look for in helping him choose the best place to work?

Answer: In order to find out if a potential workplace is safe, you have to assess it. Consider factors such as the kind of security at the workplace and how many employees are on duty at any time, especially if your child is going to be working at night. By asking these questions, you can determine if your fears are irrational or reasonable.

The next thing to do is to share these concerns with your son. Let him know what it is about the job that he's considering that bothers you. Part of this conversation should tackle his "it won't happen to me" attitude that teens often have. Tell him about the risks that he could face working in an unsafe situation. Let him know that he needs to find out if he will be left alone at a cash register; if he is going to be working late hours, he needs to know who will be there to help him close up.

If he takes the job, periodically review with him how it is working out; if you're still uncomfortable, establish some ground rules about the job _ such as working only during the day or that you'll drop him off and pick him up after work so he doesn't have to walk home alone. Whatever helps to make the two of you more comfortable, do it.

Finally, if you just can't deal with the worry, you may have to put your foot down and ask him to take another job. Kids who work at a mall, an office or in an environment where there are several employees working at the same time tend to feel more comfortable and safe than working in an isolated store, especially during the evening. Although your son may not understand your fears, you have to go with your instincts in looking out for his best welfare.

For 20 years, psychologist Ruth Peters has specialized in treating children and families. If you have questions for her, or suggestions about what has worked for you during your children's middle years, please send them to Middle Ground, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Please include your name and phone number, which won't be published.