Holiday dinners are always full of delicious food, warm wishes, unsolicited kissed from Aunt Ethel and concerned comments from Granny regarding the state of your (or your kid’s) future. The decision to take a gap year might not immediately get the excited response you were hoping for. Consider our advice on how to approach the conversation to help your relatives better understand the progressive, bold and thoughtful decision you have made.
Tip One: Consider their perspective before the event
Before sharing your exciting news over Christmas dinner, take some time to think about how you think your relatives will react. Shock? Confusion? Anger? Distain? Supportive? Excited? They may even run through all of these throughout the course of the evening! Their reactions will be based on how they were educated and what their expectations are for you. Try to guess how they will react so you can be prepared and keep up your enthusiasm for your decision.
Tip Two: Educate, Educate, Educate
The biggest barrier to your relatives being excited for your decision to take a gap year is that they likely don’t even know what a gap year is! What they don’t know, scares them and they fill in their lack of knowledge with stereotypes and outdated ideas. DON’T GET DEFENSIVE. Its not their fault that they haven’t researched this pathway, just share your enthusiasm for the reason why you are doing it and they will soon be on board. Try sharing the below information to help them understand what a gap year is and is not:
It has been done for decades in the UK and Australia – society there is thriving so it can’t be that bad!
Almost all gappers will return to post-secondary studies after their gap year – that is usually the goal of the year. Share that it is your goal too (if it is)
Educational pathways are no longer linear – many people will have a mix of college, university, workplace experience and breaks in studies before embarking on a formal “career”
The year can be a huge year of growth and learning – working, volunteering, traveling, taking courses for interest sake will all help build a resume and develop skills that will further your educational and career prospects.
Taking a year to take care of yourself will ensure that you will be healthy and happy moving forward. Whether it is recharging your battery, clarifying educational goals or exploring how the “real world” works – taking this time is an investment in yourself and your future.
Tip Three: Don’t try to convert them
For many, gap years are a new concept and it will take them some time to wrap their heads around the idea. They may want to ask some of their friends about it, read up online or just take some time to think about it. Don’t try to have everyone onboard by the end of the meal!
Celebrate and engage the supportive family members in dialogue during the meal. There will be lots of people who think it is a great idea and may even be jealous at the idea! Dream together what your year will look like and how you will become a different person by the end of it!
Tip Four: Be Proud.
Taking a gap year takes lots of confidence. It is a bold choice to do something different than the masses. It takes vision and drive to plan out your own pathway and the benefits will come back exponentially! This is not a bad choice so speak to it with confidence while helping others to see it the same positive way you do! Try out some of the lines below with your family and friends:
Actually Grandma, its not a wasted year – it’s a year of learning through life experience. You often say that I am not independent enough, this is my chance to learn that skill.
Uncle John, this is a scary step for me, I would appreciate your support along the way.
Mom and I have talked about this: University/college will always be there, this is my chance to figure out who I am and then make a better decision on what I want to study.
I don’t think I will be behind my peers. Many people who go directly into post-secondary programs switch majors but the research shows that people who took gap years are less likely to switch programs because they know what they want to study before starting.
I do want to travel, but I plan on working for the first half of the year to save up money for my trip and also to pay for some of my tuition for the following year.
Tip Five: Ask for help
Your relatives love you and want what is best for you. They also like to feel needed. Ask them to give you a hand figuring out your gap year. Perhaps you want them to provide you with gap-friendly gifts for birthdays and graduation? Maybe they have connections to an internship opportunity? Maybe they have a friend who lives in a country you would like to visit? Maybe they themselves took a gap year and can mentor you through the process? By involving your family, you can ensure that your year will be more successful as they will be invested in it going smoothly!
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