Though teenagers often make it apparent that they cant bear to live at home, it can be tricky to persuade them to leave, and theyre certainly not cheap to keep. In fact, many parents of older teenagers probably feel like the majority of the £194,000 is spent when their child is between 16 and 21 years old, particularly when buying clothes and shoes and paying the electricity, water and food bills.
Its been impossible to avoid news of redundancies for first jobbers and high unemployment rates amongst young people over the past six months, which means there must be thousands of older teens hanging around at home, not paying rent and perhaps not doing anything useful.
However, the average annual cost of keeping a teen of nearly £9,300* (plus rent) can be significantly reduced by sending them overseas for a gap year. This may sound like a dramatic alternative, but taking a gap year has become a rite of passage for many teens, and it doesnt have to be about hostel hopping and bungee jumping.
Volunteering during a gap year is a rewarding and often fulfilling experience, but to do it within a community that is geographically and culturally distant from ones own, can be life changing. Overseas volunteers are giving something back to communities and gaining global awareness, and there are many additional benefits to both parent and child.
Parents will see a short term dramatic reduction in their monthly bills and will be able to abandon their teen-related, extracurricular roles; chauffeur, chef, money lender.
Even the responsibility of being a parent can be relaxed somewhat by choosing a reputable organisation with in-country representatives. It may be the first time since the beginning of their childrens social lives that parents will feel assured about where their children are and what they are getting up to.
In the long term, parents will reap the benefits of a changed child. A volunteering gap year can transform a young person, helping them to grow and develop in ways their parents could never have imagined. A volunteer who has worked with environmental conservation experts in Australia will gain a better understanding not just of the importance of energy saving but also of climate change and the delicate balance of nature.
They may learn there is more to be gained from harmony than arguing whilst teaching English to Tibetan Buddhist refugees in India; or, through working with street children in Ecuador, learn to appreciate running water, a roof over their heads and the importance of family and community, as well as appreciating the luxuries in their lives, like iPods and computers that they previously took for granted.
They will certainly develop the confidence and skills to apply for a job and move out (though perhaps not straight away).
Often, young people choose to take a gap year and volunteer overseas because they are unsure about what to do after college or university, and they return with a dream career in mind and the ambition and self-belief to pursue it.
In the unlikely event that they might need persuading, a quick quiz at www.whatkindofvolunteerareyou.org.uk, will help young people to define a volunteering gap year option to suit them.
Lattitude Global Volunteering is the original volunteering gap year provider, and a registered international youth development charity. Lattitude believes the opportunity to volunteer overseas should be available to people of all backgrounds and offers a bursary scheme to those who may struggle to afford the experience otherwise.
*Taken from research carried out by insurer LV=
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