A message to my parents. Things they learnt the hard way when their daughter started her Year Abroad.
Sometimes I do feel sorry for my parents. Not only have they supported me through university, encouraged my language learning and made moving to Madrid for my year abroad so much easier, I feel like I have repaid them by becoming a stranger. But, to be fair, this is what all parents must feel as the chicks leave the nest. Rather than a soppy apology or an overly emotional declaration of how lovely my parents have been (blah blah blah), I thought I would impart some advice about things that I have found most useful since being away.
Top tips on how to help your child feel at home while they're away
One of the best inventions for international communication. Every time I turn on my laptop it automatically signs into Skype. So despite time differences and very different routines we can stay in touch very easily. Whether that is walking around my new flat with the webcam turned on to show them my new digs, or lying in bed on a Sunday morning with a hangover that makes only typing messages bearable, rather than face to face conversation. Incredibly easy and free, as long as you have internet.
2. Expect mood swings.
Don’t expect to hear from your loved-ones when they are in a bar at four in the morning having the time of their lives. Instead you may get the tears, the stress, the worry and the depressing moments of their time away. But to abide by one of my Mum’s favourite sayings: ‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’ In my experience, a good chat is a marvellous cure (also see point 1.)
3. Send post.
One of the best feelings is to open the post box and see a lovely A5 parcel with your name on it in their handwriting. This is especially true when you are on your Year Abroad with a foreign address as even the bank doesn’t send you statements anymore. Anything from a postcard, to a letter saying hello, to ‘this reminded me of you today’, to a spray of perfume. In the long run it is about 58p per stamp, which is nothing to make your son or daughter smile and have something to put on their wall. Here are some present ideas made easy.
4. The same applies with texts and emails.
It doesn’t cost you any more to send a text to a foreign phone than one in your home country so, again, what is 12p for a smile? And emails: they’re free. (Or Paperless Post?)
5. Lastly, expect selfishness.
Before I came away I was told to be as selfish as I wanted as this year is potentially one of the most unique opportunities I will ever have. So, unfortunately for parents, please expect sporadic contact, no return at Easter, no desire to come home within the year and no enthusiastic invitations for you to visit. Don’t take it to heart, but make the most of your new-found freedom! (Or as my parents decided: simply barge right in there whilst also bringing the rest of the extended family with them. Serves me right for not coming home for Easter.)
For more advice and tips, check out our 3Ps Parent Rule: Preparation, Planning and Putting your feet up.