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Gap Years Abroad: Parents Guide

Gap Years Abroad: Parents Guide  main image

If your child is planning on taking a gap year abroad, find out how you can support him/her during each stage, from preparations through to the return journey.

Insurance and medical requirements

A priority should always be insurance. Has your son or daughter taken it out? Does it cover all possible scenarios? Do you have copies of the policy, both electronic and hard copy?

It's the last thing you or your children want to have to use, but if for some reason something goes wrong you want to be able to action the insurance as quickly and as easily as possible.

Depending on the countries your child is planning on travelling to, he or she may also need immunisation. And no matter how old they are, they may still want your support at the doctor's surgery - having injections is never a pleasant experience.

Financial details

Insurance policies aren't the only documents you want to have on hand. Keep a copy of your child's bank statements to hand so you know the number and reference details should you need to deposit additional finances into the account.

These details may also be necessary if the bank rings to determine if any unusual activity on the account is legitimate (highly unlikely, but better to be on the safe side).

Then there are the copies of passports, visas, travel, itineraries and flight bookings that would be handy to have close by - preferably all together in the same place.

Keeping in touch

You may be hoping that your child keeps in regular contact with you during their time abroad, but don't let your expectations get too high.

Be realistic. By the time they've found their accommodation, made new friends and booked the must-do activities in the region, there may not be time left to send you a detailed email of all their thoughts and impressions.

Instead of setting up unreasonable demand, agree that even a simple text message to say they've arrived safe and sound will do. If you take the pressure off them, you may just find they contact you quite regularly on their own.

Remember they're probably missing you just as much as your missing them, although don't expect them to admit that!

Travel of your own

It may not be the coolest of suggestions to make, but perhaps it's a topic you could broach during the gap year. Your son or daughter will be having the time of their lives, but why don't you get a piece of the action as well?

You'll hear all about their experiences once they've returned, but perhaps you could also fly out and meet them for part of the trip.

Forge friendships

If your child stays with a host family during their time abroad, why not follow up on the initial contact with a thank you for having them. A phone call, email or letter will help continue the friendship your child has already begun.

You could also consider opening your doors to gap year students in return. There'll always be some teenager away from family and in need of a comfortable bed, a washing machine and a home-cooked meal - and in return you'll get to hear about their travels and home culture.

Enjoy yourself

Finally, use the gap year experience to enjoy yourselves as well. You may find you have an empty household and spare time on your hands now that you don't have to clean up after teenagers, cook extra meals or operate a taxi service in the early hours of the morning.

So why not make this your year to see more shows, go out for dinners, catch up with friends and make a few trips of your own. After all, your children will be having the time of their life; you should too!

Written by Piotr L.

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