It's a parent's instinct to worry, and this may certainly be your first response when your son or daughter first pipes up with the idea of going on a gap year. Parents may feel they know best, but try to trust that your child will know whether or not they are ready for a gap year. Going on a gap year can be the perfect way for your son or daughter to prepare for the transition from adolescence to adulthood, bridging the gap between school or college and the next step into the real world.
You may think that they aren't ready yet, or are too immature, but if anything, that's a good reason to let them go! Travelling will provide the freedom and experience needed for them to grow as a person. They'll return with incredible stories and unforgettable memories, but will also have learnt to be far more responsible, organised and worldly-wise.
Your son or daughter may have lived in the same area for the majority of their life, so it's most likely that they are itching to explore the outside world. Remember, it's their gap year, so although you might think it more worthwhile for them to spend six months volunteering, their dream trip may be to backpack around South America or surf the Australian coast. Although they may not ask for it, it's most likely that your son or daughter would very much appreciate your advice, but remember to respect their own decisions and let them start making their first independent choices about their travels. Wherever they end up going, a gap year will provide the opportunity to experience a new culture and immerse themselves in the customs, beliefs and lifestyle of the country and its people, and it will undoubtedly broaden their horizons.
Gap years are a quite recent trend and the gap year industry has boomed in the last decade or two. Because of this, a lot of parents find it quite hard to understand why their son or daughter would want to spend thousands of pounds travelling around the world. More and more young people are seeing that gap years give them the opportunity to really discover more about the world. Parents can sometimes see gap years as a waste of time and money, and can worry about the practicalities, such as financing issues. A gap year can help their future career, as an increasing number of universities and employers recognise that those who have travelled during a year out are far more responsible and experienced than those who have gone straight from secondary education into the workplace or higher education. Having completed a gap year demonstrates determination and dedication, financial management and strength of character, making your son or daughter a far stronger candidate for future jobs.
You may be quite reluctant to let go of knowing what your child is doing and where they are going, especially letting them have free reign in a far-away destination. You may worry about them keeping safe, whether or not they have run out of money, peer pressure or unprotected sex, but you have to remember that your child will encounter these situations at some point in their life whether or not they take a gap year. You just have to trust that your guidance and their judgement will mean that they are sensible and stay safe. Careful planning and staying in touch while they are away will ensure that you at least have an idea of where you son or daughter is and what they are doing. Gap years are an incredible opportunity and thousands of young people decide to go travelling each year, so give your son or daughter their first taste of freedom and watch as they embark on one of the most unforgettable experiences of their lives!