No matter how old your children get, they’ll always be your kids. Preparing to send kids to college is hard enough, but preparing to send them overseas to study for a semester or even for a longer period of time is an even bigger adjustment. Whether you’re dealing with empty nest syndrome, this is your first child to leave home or you’re somewhere in between, coping with the departure can be hard. Here are six ways you can prepare to see them off and adjust to a new lifestyle:
1. Start prepping early. The earlier the better. As soon as you find out your child is going abroad, you can help with preparing details for the trip and mentally prepping yourself for the change as well. The more time you give yourself to get used to the idea, the easier it may be when the time actually comes. Early preparation for their trip will give you plenty of time to arrange logistics like student international health insurance and also give you the peace of mind of knowing your child has everything needed for a safe trip to another country.
2. Have a plan for communication. Create a plan for communication, as well as maybe one or two backup plans. Whether you plan to use Skype, Google+ Hangout an international calling card or another method of international communication, establish how you’re going to communicate and test it out a few times beforehand. Test it on different devices and with different Internet connection speeds. Test your backup plans as well and purchase any necessary Skype or international calling credits.
3. Research the destination. You’ll have an easier time saying goodbye if you better understand what life will be like for your child in the study abroad destination. Do your research about the university, housing, neighborhoods, nearby surroundings, popular hangouts and transportation options. Ask for a copy of your child’s class schedule so you’ll have a better idea of what an average day will look like. Knowing what he’ll likely experience might help put your mind at ease.
4. Find ways to keep busy. If the departure will leave you with more spare time than you’ve previously had, you might consider finding new ways to keep busy. You could find a volunteer opportunity, join a book club or start your own, take up a new hobby, learn a new skill or get involved at your church or your child’s former school.
5. Have a talk to set expectations. Even though your child is more or less independent now, it’s always a good idea to have one last talk to set expectations about behavior. Don’t lecture, but just remind your child that in the real world, actions have consequences. Remind your child to stay safe, make wise decisions and to call if trouble arises. Encourage a good parent-adult child open communication pattern where your child feels comfortable to come to you with problems, but you’ll have to treat your child as an adult and not an adolescent.
6. Organize a proper sendoff. When the departure time finally arrives, be sure you’ve arranged a going away party. Have a themed party based on the study destination, encourage your child’s closest friends to prepare a short speech or ask each guest to write a going away message that you can compile into a scrapbook.
You’ve always taught your kids to plan ahead, and now it’s your time to follow your own advice. Preparing and planning for the departure will give you time to let go, be supportive and begin to look forward to the next step in your child’s life.