Having looked after and watched over your son or daughter throughout their childhood and adolescence, you may find it a lot harder that you first thought to accept the idea of them leaving. For many young people, going on a gap year is often the first time that they will be living away from home for a long period of time, and this prospect is often one of the most daunting aspects of a gap year for both them and you.
Although it might at first seem like a relief to no longer be greeted by piles of dirty clothes, blaring music and empty food cupboards, it may surprise you how much you miss having your son or daughter around. This may be the first time that they have left home for a long period of time, so it might come as a shock to you not to hear from them every day. Just remember that they are taking a step towards independence and maturity, and it's not always possible for them to regularly get in contact. To save you worrying about where they are or what they are up to, take a look at our 'Staying In Touch' section for different options for staying in contact. It's best to come to an agreement about how often they will be in contact before they leave and to realistically agree on how often they will get in touch. Keep in mind that travel plans do change and a lot of rural destinations will not have the facilities for them to get in touch.
It's also worth making sure that you have a copy of your child's essential documents, including passports, insurance policies and tickets, and a list of the numbers of the hostels and hotels that they are staying in. To make sure you can help out with financing, it's worth considering naming yourself as a 'third-party mandate' for their bank account, so you are able to transfer money across to their account if they run out of funds during their travels. Although you might feel helpless being stuck at home whilst your son or daughter travels round the globe, this kind of advance preparation means that you will feel more comfortable in the knowledge that you can help them out if they do get into any difficulties.
A lot of parents are understandably concerned about their child keeping safe on their gap year, and are often uncomfortable with the thought of their child travelling and living in developing countries, as these locations are often thought to be far more dangerous and difficult. You may not think that your son or daughter is responsible or mature enough to cope with such a change of living conditions, or fear that they might be exposed to things that you wouldn't want them to, but it's exactly these experiences that will help your child grow as a person, broadening their horizons and opening their eyes to different ways of life. They will be able to discover new cultures and ways of living, explore exotic landscapes or maybe even take part in rewarding volunteer projects.
One of the best ways for both you and your son or daughter to prepare for this change is to research the customs, economy and politics of the country or countries that they are going to visit. A good idea is to check out the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) website or the UN website as these will reassure you that it is safe for your son or daughter to travel, or advise against it if there is any political or social unrest or threats of danger. Obviously some destinations are more dangerous than others, so make sure both you and your son or daughter are aware of the social climate of the country that they wish to travel to before they go. As long as they are sensible and aware of their surroundings and actions, they should be fine.If that's not enough to reassure you, you'll find further tips on our advice for parents pages.