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Guest Post: Advice for Parents if Your Child is Volunteering Abroad

Hello loverlies! I am back from my vacation out to Eastern Canada and will collect photos and notes to share with you soon.

In the meantime, I was contacted a while back about a guest post sponsored by Projects Abroad, an international volunteer organization. Many young people take “gap years” these days — I know I certainly did! In fact, in my family, three out of four of the kids chose to travel overseas after graduation: I left with a backpack to Australia, my brother did volunteer work in the Ukraine and traveled extensively in Asia, and my sister taught English in South Korea. Only now, as a parent myself, can I imagine the trepidation a parent must feel when their child (who is actually a young adult, but must always still feel like a child to you, right?) announces that they want to travel in far away lands … lands that may be completely unfamiliar to you.

So, in this regard, I hope that this sponsored guest post might be helpful to some fellow parents out there! 

Advice for Parents if Your Child is Volunteering Abroad

More and more young adults are deciding to travel and volunteer abroad. We all rationally understand the benefits of this, but it can still be really hard for a parent to ‘let go’ and overcome their worries.

With the growing numbers of students hoping to volunteer abroad from Canada, many parents must be full of concerns and fears. Here is some advice that you may find useful. If you do, please share it with others who are in the same situation.

Concerns

There are many concerns that parents have, but these appear to be the main ones:

  • My child is not mature enough for this.
  • I do not know anything about where they are going so I can’t help them.
  • I have concerns for their safety and health.
  • I don’t believe they can plan and prepare adequately.

Déjà vu?

If you placed these concerns in another context you may recognise them as ones you have held throughout different periods of their life. Maybe it was when they started school, or spent a week on holiday with a friend’s family, took their first job or headed off to university?

Each time you have overcome your fears by deciding that what they were doing was right for them and helping them prepare by being positive and enthusiastic. Do the same again and this will become another great life experience you can bond over.

Source

Get involved

You may not be there with them but you can share this journey. Help them choose their project and review the organisations offering it with them. Go along to open days and contact former volunteers. Voice your concerns but accept them as questions that need answering rather than impenetrable barriers that cannot be breached.

Whatever your child wishes to do, whether it’s getting involved in teaching, conservation or nursing abroad, they may want to travel afterwards, and you can help them to plan this part too.

Prepare                                                            

The more you can help them prepare, the more successful their experience will be and the less you will worry.

  • Discuss budgeting for their travel with them and help them review how they will access their finances whilst abroad.
  • Think about their work and living conditions and kit them out with travel gear that’s fit for purpose – one top tip is to always have a head torch if electricity supply is intermittent.
  • If this will be their first time away from home, help them to learn some basic cooking skills and show them easy to cook meals if they will be fending for themselves.
  • Help to plan and pack their rucksack. Many travellers prefer to use plastic zip-lock bags to keep things organised and dry.

Keep in touch

They need a contact plan for keeping in touch with you. Think about how often this will happen and what communication options are available, for example, phone, email, Skype or text.

Try to keep your emotions in check and see this as another big step to maturity. They can do it – with your help!

If you have any other tips to add from your own experience, please leave a comment and share it here! I learned so much about myself from traveling. It’s funny how you sometimes need to go away to get that perspective, isn’t it?

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