Written By: Claire Adams
Before we begin, we need to answer the age-old question – what constitutes a supportive parent?
First of all, a supportive parent is one that encourages their child in their academic pursuits as well as their hobbies. Their other task is to be there, listen without judgement and try to put themselves in their child’s shoes, particularly during those turbulent teenage years. This one is difficult, but vital, as kids tend to drift apart from their parents at this age and you need to show them that you are there unconditionally. Don’t judge their mistakes or write off their goals and dreams as unreachable – acknowledge that you may not have all the answers and don’t underestimate your child’s wisdom. Finally, if you want them to act like adults, you need to treat them as adults.
Why is this all important? Because children who feel support and encouragement tend to make better choices and grow up to be independent, responsible and successful. Now, every parent wants to see their child successful, finishing college, finding a lucrative career – that’s a given. This is exactly why many parents struggle to understand when their kid comes to tell them they want to take a year off from college, whether in the middle of their studies or before going to grad school. That, let’s call it ‘a gap’, isn’t something you’ll be thrilled with, but let’s consider some of the reasons this might actually be great for their personal and professional development.
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Immersion in other cultures
When you go abroad and you mix with locals with a completely different language and a set of religious and every other beliefs, it simply makes you a better person.
You may have taught your child to be tolerant, understanding and free of any form of prejudice and stereotypes, but there is absolutely no better way to raise a great person, a worldly one if you want, unless you let them spread their wings and explore everything the world has to offer. Each culture can teach you a different thing, instil a different great quality in you, and give you life lessons that will last forever. By letting your kid fly, you are giving them the chance to be better in every sense of the word.
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It teaches them independence
Let’s admit it. While in college, your kid isn’t truly independent. They can always count on you to send a care package, a little extra money, and they live comfortably, whether in a dorm or private housing. Yes, being a little far away from you gives them a taste of independence, but going abroad will teach them so much more. They will have to work for a living, find their own apartment, pay their bills – simply put, pay their dues. That makes a person resilient and more capable.
As a result, when they come back, they will be this whole new amazing and improved person you will be even more proud of. And worry not, there are tons of ways for them to make a living and perhaps even develop new skills. For instance, if they decide to go to China, they can always make a living by putting their native English skills to use and become a teacher at such amazing schools as Monkey Tree ESL. The one thing a native English speaker can always rely on is a teaching job abroad, so don’t you worry about them making it on their own.
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They will learn the value of money
They say you don’t know the value of money until you begin to make your own. Having to pay bills, take care of food, or buy clothes will be an amazing lesson on how to save, to be economical and frugal. They will even become more grateful for all the years and money you’ve invested in their education, and perhaps even continue to work part-time when they come back home, as a way of taking a part of the burden off of you, and to also retain that newfound sense of independence.
You may not believe that a year off is a great idea, and that’s your natural, parenting instinct speaking. You want your child to be safe, not to go without, and most importantly, to go back and finish college or get their Master’s degree. However, you have to believe that you have raised a great and responsible person, and that this year off will only fortify these qualities and make them an even better, more competent and more qualified person. A person with a new sense of direction. A real goal-getter. There will always be concerns, but if you’ve done your job right, you will have very little to worry about.
About the Author
Claire Adams is a personal and professional development expert who believes that a positive attitude is one of the keys to success. She enjoys life to the fullest in the healthiest way possible and loves to share her insights into parenting, education, and entrepreneurship. Feel free to reach her on Facebook and Twitter.