If you're not a parent ... don't read this.
This post is for parents. Your child is abroad and you're nervous. All too often we explain to parents when they call for information about the program their child is on that we can’t talk to them about very much since our agreement is with their child … who happens to be an adult. But when you’re the parent and you’re on the receiving end of that line, it isn’t a “happy place” you're in. You didn't want that answer.
I’ve been doing this work for almost 40 years and my youngest daughter is on her way to her first home stay. To be honest, she’s 16. So she really isn’t an adult. But I’m nervous. It’s impossible to switch off the “Dad” button. This is an interesting situation for me to be in, because without any thought at all, I send people into home stays abroad everyday of the year. And when parents call to check in, ask questions or challenge something that’s going on, our standard answer is, “Our contract is with your child. We can talk to you, but we really can’t talk about the program.”
I have to rethink this position. Because now that the tables are turned, I don’t like where I’m sitting. As the parent, I mean.
Here is a great article from the China Daily about support groups of parents whose childern go abroad to go to school or work.
What I Want For My Daughter
...and I suspect what you want for your child too:
- I want Molly to have a loving family for the month she will be living in France.
- I want her host Mom (she’s going to be living with a single-mother and two daughters) to treat her as her own daughter.
- I want the 16-year old host-sister to include her in activities she has with her friends.
- Molly is a very picky eater … I want her to have to try new and different foods … with love. I don’t want her to be hungry.
- I want Molly to be included as a member of the family.
- I’d like for Molly to have some private space, to be able to retreat to her soul when she’s homesick or misses her friends, her routine, her dog, Archie.
- I want her to experience independence … and still be my daughter who needs me.
- I want her to feel like she can text or email me if things aren’t going well, and know I’ll figure out a way to make it all better from many miles and time-zones away.
- I want her to become fluent in French through immersion and 64 more hours of French lessons.
- I want this experience to give her life skills she can use in her last two years of high school and getting into college … and recalling to her own daughter when SHE wants to do this program.
- I want her to be happy and thrilled with this experience and with herself.
- I want her to be safe.
And I could keep typing, adding a lot to that list. If you're reading ... please add to the list by adding some comment to the bottom of this post.
But what I want for my daughter is not at all different from what you parents want for your child. The difference is, until today I was a “gate keeper” if you called us. Today? I’m a Dad. And I don’t want any gate keeper to add more angst to my life. This is quite enough, thank you.
What Can Parents Do?
After 40-years of doing this, I got to pick the very best program for my daughter. I would have picked GeoVisions … but we don’t take anyone younger than 18. So I chose a program I know to be the best for her. That’s right, I have the inside track. And I used it.
But I was not happy with the lack of information about the host family we received from this excellent program. So I wrote to them and asked for more. Now this is important for you to know: the reply I got was, “If you want more information, you and Molly should email the host family.”
Gate Keeper! That didn’t feel good. I got a taste of my own medicine and it didn’t go down well.
Oh you should have heard me around the office. On second thought … it’s good you didn’t.
Parents: If you do only one thing ... do this
Molly told me she would email the host family and that under no circumstances was I to communicate with them. This was her program after all and she wanted to be in charge. (Nice try, Molly. I’m the parent and I get to act like one.) But I nodded my head up and down (understanding what she was saying) and in my mind nodded my head sideways (understanding what she was saying was a load of crap to a Dad.)
Molly wrote to the host family and received a really nice reply all in French.
So here it is: I wrote to the host mom. Oh yes I did. Oh yes I did. The only way Molly will know is if the host mom tells her, or she reads this Blog. And I’m sure the host Mom will not say a thing, and I can guarantee you that Molly does NOT read this Blog. But who cares? Right?
The One Thing I Encourage All Parents To Do If You’re Nervous
Write to the host family. To be honest … GeoVisions can’t give you their email address. But let’s get real. GET IT FROM YOUR KID. You want to know where they live. Their phone number in case the family pet dies. And the email address for an emergency.
Then, write a SHORT but friendly email (knowing English is not their first language) and tell them a little about you and the family and end QUICKLY with, “I just wanted you to know I love [insert child’s name here] with all my heart and know [insert gender her] will be in good hands and come home with wonderful stories and have incredible experiences."
You will feel so much better. And you’ll get a reply and you’ll feel SO MUCH BETTER.
So don’t call here. Take matters into your own hands and be the parent. And if you want … go ahead and give me a call. Or email me. Start with, “Dear Coach…”