A Gap Year: Parents Guide
You’re thinking about your child’s future- that’s normal. You basically want what is best for them both personally and career wise- understandable. The idea of a gap year worries you, and deciding whether you are going to give the “OK” is hard, parenting is hard- we get it.
As a parent, we know that you’re probably asking the practical questions. “Is it safe?”, “How will it impact my child’s future prospects?”. You’re probably even running the numbers in your head, the cost of flights, spending money, insurance, visa and who knows what else?!
Honestly, when your child talks about the prospect of a gap year, we totally understand your apprehension.
We are here to help, and we won’t shower you with sales pitches. This blog will simply cover the realities of what your child will face after graduation. Whilst we will provide some helpful answers to those practical questions.
A smack of reality….Yep, that’s what happens after graduation.
The world today is competitive, everyone is trying to get somewhere fast. More and more young people are securing degrees: competition can be fierce. As a result, many employers are now looking beyond undergrad degrees, focusing more on postgraduate qualifications and life experience. Most young people go from academics and extracurriculars to the hectic life of a full-time job (if they’re lucky!) and the millions of other things that make us official adults (i.e. taxes, bills, rent, debt, cooking meals, washing clothes).
Essentially, most young people go straight from a life of schooling to adulthood without any transition or practice. This is the reality for graduates today.
Psychologist Jeffrey Arnott suggests that early twenties is a transition stage between adolescence and adulthood called “emerging adulthood”. It’s within this period that many young people feel “in between”, at a time of instability.
The big challenge for parents is providing the right support through this stage. Providing the best advice, guidance, and time.
Seems a little bit overwhelming right?!
Knowing the options and understanding how best to help may seem a little difficult but don’t worry, we can offer some support.
In this guide, we will cover what a gap year can provide to your child.
A gap year provides many opportunities for developing new skills and adapting to the real world
It’s not all wanderlust-y backpacking and no alarm setting.
Adjusting to a new culture, new country, figure out legalities (i.e. finding work, getting paid, paying rent/bills, visa restrictions etc) and learning to live in a completely new society are definites when it comes to a gap year. These experiences provide skills such as initiative, reliance, problem-solving, cross-cultural communication and learning to adapt to change, to name but a few. These are not just valuable life skills but they completely boost any resume or interview conversation.
Living abroad stimulates personal growth
In college, we tend to spend a lot of time around the same type of people, do the same things and even take on the same traits and habits. And that’s ok, it’s all a part of growing up. A gap year provides a period of “figuring things out”. Exposure to new people, situations, and social norms stimulate various degrees of growth and empathy. Whether it’s figuring out life’s true calling, finding a career path or simply maturing- a gap year facilitates it.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder (and helps provide perspective!)
It’s perfectly normal to feel like the grass is greener on the other side (and maybe it is!). But there is nothing like a little distance to make you really appreciate what you have at home.
The distinct desire toward big city life, rolling green hills, and pure adventure will always push most young people to look beyond their current situation. An experience abroad will trigger maturing, perspective and gratitude. It’s easy to fall into the habit of mom doing our laundry, dad being the on-call taxi driver or even just having easy access to all our favorite foods: traveling will give you a real appreciation for these kinds of things.
Right, that all sounds very good but you still have some questions.
Is it safe?
Dublin is a relatively safe city and Ireland sits high for safety on a global scale, ranking 12th (see this IEP report from 2016).
We understand that traveling alone comes with its risks but taking a gap year through a reputable program is a safe and secure option. For example, with Stint Ireland, we invest in accommodation that is located in safe areas (no hostels!). We are contactable 24/7 in the event your child needs us. We provide everything from an airport pick-up, meet and greet, orientation to ongoing personal support. Whilst all our program participants are provided with insurance before arrival to Dublin. Basically, your child’s safety is our main priority.
Maybe you’re wondering about terrorism- well, we have had no terrorist threats here in Ireland in recent years.
How could I support my child?
Navigating adolescence alone is tough, coming out of college and facing many big decisions can be even tougher. The best form of support is non-judgemental and unconditional. Your child will respect when you have listened and engaged in this manner.
We suggest being a guider- let them come up with their own decisions through guidance. Making sure they have covered all angles: safety, finance, planned traveling routes etc. Have conversations about these kinds of topics, avoid quizzing or questioning.
Throughout their gap year, they will have ups and downs, be their support. Remember this experience is practice for real-life. Encourage them to meet new experiences head on, to make new friends and fully embrace their time abroad.
When the time comes to go home, help to prepare them. Believe us, a gap year will change your child. They will have become a little more independent, mature and individual- respect that. Give them the time and space to process their experience. Converse with them, they will appreciate your interest and support.
Money- the finances?
A huge defining aspect of an experience abroad. The initial costs can seem expensive: visa, insurance, flight, and going through a reputable company can add to the cost, but with that comes a huge level of support and help. Some gap year programs such as the one Stint Ireland provides cover housing and insurance within the program fee- so there are no hidden costs.
Remember, your child can also obtain a job with their visa (working holiday visa), so once they touch down and get settled, it is just a matter of finding a job and going through the legalities i.e. obtaining a social security number and bank account. Again, via a reputable gap year program, your child will have all the support they need to find a job and get set up.
Have more questions?
Cool, questions are good. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to chat.
For more information on Stint Ireland’s Gap Program please visit www.stintireland.com