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Advice for Parents on Gap Years

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Written by: Matt Dawson

No matter if your parents are supportive, or unsupportive, or you are 14 or 45, everyone’s relationships with their folks are going to be different. The only issue here is reassurance. They want to know that you’re going to be all right and that what you’re doing is a good thing. Apparently, nearly all parents fear they will never see their child again when they see them off at the airport, as their child departs for their gap year to pastures unknown.

Telling Your Parents

Try and tell your parents about your gap year intentions when all is calm and peaceful, don’t throw it at them during a row. Ideally breach the subject when you all have time to sit down and listen to each other. Maybe over a nice cup of tea? If you have a plan and can show your parents you have thought things through you are more likely to get a positive response.

What Will My Parents Say?

Fact is, parents’ opinions count no matter how old you are. You know your parents better than anyone else, so only you know how they are going to react to your plans. While some seem only too keen to boot you out of the door, others can’t bear to see you go. Most are in between, although hints of the two extremes will often appear.

It's not usual for parents to be unsupportive of gap years

Supportive Parents

Superb. You are lucky – so don’t forget this! While being supportive, they will still be worried and nervous about what you are about to do, especially if it involves a continent they often see on the telly ravaged by war! Make sure they are fully aware of what you are up to and keep in contact the whole way through.

Unsupportive Parents

Why are they unsupportive? It’s usually for one of these reasons:

  • Concerns over your safety
  • Fears that you won’t fit back in when you return (to uni or work)
  • “You can always do this later on in life” (has this always been their excuse?)

Unless you know what the reasons are, you will never be able to address them. The three concerns above, combined with the hundreds of concerns over finances, catching an incurable disease, disappearing for good, turning into a ‘travel bum’ and dropping out of society – crop up all the time and if you’re hearing them from your parents now, you’re not alone.

Making a Plan

If you don’t have one, get one. Have a serious think about the whole concept of the gap year – what it will do for you, the options, the costs, the positives and negatives. Why? Because you are going to have to prove to them that:

  • You are focused
  • You know what you are doing
  • You are about to go into something with your eyes wide open

Empty Nest Syndrome

All too often, we pesky kids forget that our parents are sensitive to our actions and that jetting off to far-flung places might leave them missing us. Even if they are completely supportive of our gap year ideas, that’s not to say that they won’t miss us while we’re away. So be considerate and spare a thought for them.

Letting Go

These people have looked after you for the best part of two decades or more. Is it any wonder that they’ll miss you after you’re gone?

Last to Leave

And if you’re the only one or the last to leave home, remember that you’ll be leaving an empty house. Your folks will quite possibly be wondering what they’ll fill their time with while you’re away. It may be something they’ve secretly been looking forward to, but it’s no less of a wrench when it finally happens.

The Parents Checklist

Parents are likely to ask a few questions about your gap year plans – the more ‘together and prepared’ you are the more likely they are to support you and not worry too much – so ask yourself the questions below and have some well thought out answers ready:

  • Where you are going?
  • When you are going?
  • When do you intend to return?
  • Who you are going with?
  • Do they have a good reputation?
  • Will you be safe?
  • How do you know?
  • How much is it all going to cost?
  • How do you intend to pay for it?
  • Are they expected to contribute?
  • Can you really afford it?
  • What if there is an emergency?
  • How do you intend to stay in contact?
  • What do you think you will get out of it?
  • Why do you think you should go?
  • What is the benefit to you?
  • Have you really thought this through?
  • Are you really going to do this?

If you can answer all of these questions you are well on the way to persuading your parents that a gap year really is a good idea after all.

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