Gap year advice and broadening horizons


Beach ball globeAh, the gap year. A terrifying prospect for parents, in every sense. To start with, there are the physical dangers. Of course, as every parent of a teenager knows or certainly should know, adolescence is risky whether your kid is out at the local pub (especially risky, that) or 5,000 miles away.

But, all the same, being in India (or South America, or Thailand, which seem to be the main places gap year kids gravitate towards) is particularly scary. After all, if Something Happens, we've got to make that huge long trek across the world to be at our baby's bedside.

Then there's the cost, which all too often spirals out of control. There are endless emails, and innumerable bank transfers you were told you wouldn't have to make.

"To make the most of a gap year you need a plan: if you don't plan there's a risk you never get around to going away and you always have to plan that your friends may let you down." Lilymaid

There's the keeping in touch, which obviously links closely with the safety issue (if they're two hours late in Skyping you, are they dead?).

And there are worries about who they're with, what they're smoking (and drinking), whether they're getting their drinks spiked on a Thai beach and whether they're swimming in dangerous bays with no-one else around.

On the upside, they might learn something. And you might survive without bankruptcy, or some health condition exacerbated by chronic stress. While you'll never forget the wrench of seeing them off at the airport, you'll never forget either the way they looked when you greeted them back a few months later - so much older, so much more assured, so much more grown-up.

Working before university or college

"Work experience is important. It doesn't matter whether the experience is in something they intend to pursue as a career or job, it just gives them a sense of importance and makes them realise that it's a tough world out there and they need to make an effort if they are going to get anywhere. It helps them to grow up a bit, in some cases." MaureenMLove

Trying out the world of work can teach your child a huge amount. He or she should already have done some work experience at school, but the months after leaving bring fresh possibilities.

Whether your child is saving for a round-the-world trip, or to help finance university education, it's worth encouraging them to stick their toe into a working environment. The money is handy, but more than that it's a chance to feel part of an earning culture - and the chance to work out how you don't want to earn your living, as much as how you do.

"It definitely seems less popular to take a gap year now as university is so now expensive. I wouldn't want any of mine to take a gap year unless it was something worthwhile/useful. DD1 is in her first year at university and she knows one or two people who had gap years but most people haven't." webwiz

Last updated: almost 2 years ago