What To Do When Your Child Wants a Gap Year

What to do when your child wants a gap year.

A friend of mine recently told me that his senior high-school student declared he wanted to take a gap year. The dad asked, “What are you going to do in that year?” The son replied he wants to go live with this brother in Colorado. The father then asked a series of questions like “What are you going to do when you are there?” and “How are you going to get there?” The son had no firm answers.

I talked to a mom who has a son in his junior year in college. Like many college students, he realized he didn’t like the major he picked and now doesn’t know what he wants to do. Her son is considering taking a gap year to figure things out.  

With hearing more kids talk about doing this, it got me thinking, what exactly is a gap year? Does a child see it as a year to goof off and put off the inevitable of having to go to college or technical school?

The Gap Year Association defines a gap year as, “A semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.”

According to Hagler and Nelson, authors of The Gap Year Advantage, there are two main reasons why kids say they want a gap year:

  • Burnout from the competitive pressure of high school
  • Desire to find out more about themselves

What should you do if your child says they want to take a gap year?

Have a conversation – try to find out the underlying reasons why a child says they want to take a gap year. Here are some possible scenarios I have found in working with my clients:

  • The thoughts of going to a big school is overwhelming to them
  • They are scared because they see all their friends knowing what they want to do for their future and they have no idea
  • They fear they will apply and not get accepted anywhere
  • They have anxiety about the thought of having to pick a career and don’t know what options are right for them

Once you have identified the underlying reasons, you can create a better plan of action. Take a look at my blog post High School Students: These Four Questions Can Help You Determine a Career Path to help them determine a career path. If a technical school is more in line for them, check out my blog  Why Trade School is a Viable Option for Your Child.

Would you prefer to talk to someone about how to help your child? Schedule some time with me by clicking here or give me a call at 678-761-3550. I would be happy to provide a free strategy session to help you determine the best plan of action for your child.

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