By: Delana S
Whether your son or daughter has 6 years of school left or just 2 months, you may want to look at several ways you can help him/her prepare for life on his own. There are several things you can do while in your home country, others you can try right where you are, and there are also ideas for sending your child on short trips on his own. Take the time now to set some goals for things you want to try this summer and in the upcoming school year. According to Anne-Christine Marttinen, “International children are not children who belong everywhere. They are children who know where they belong.” As you seek to prepare your children (at whatever age they are) consider your own answers to the following questions.
1. What do your kids need to know about their passport country, including relatives and others who live there? Ideas: Share family stories and family history. Have relatives send not only people pictures, but also magazines, news clippings, etc. Share about the voting process. While in your home country, visit some historical sites together, learn about national leaders and current affairs as well. At age 12 our son began staying two weeks longer than us (or going two weeks earlier) to the US. He flew as an unaccompanied minor with an escort. This allowed him to prepare some for independence. At 14 ½, he flew as an adult to the states and stayed for 2 months with grandparents. He also took his first dual credit course at a community college. These are some ways to aid in transitions.
2. How are you preparing your kids for social and practical living? Do they know how to go about making friends? Do they know how to turn down inappropriate invitations? Things to teach: calling emergency services, using a pay phone, laws for cycling and driving, using currency (including sales tax information), using or not using credit/debit cards or checks, opening a bank account, using an ATM, making appointments (doctor, dentist, barber), using unfamiliar household appliances (dishwasher, dryer), managing a budget, knowing how often to schedule certain things (physical check-up, dental, eye exams, car maintenance), preparing copies of personal health history. As for their social needs, do they know currently popular movies, TV shows, music, slang (or colloquialisms), national sports (incl. info on various teams)?
3. What kind of Spiritual Development preparation do they need? Do they know how to have a quiet time, what camps or retreats might they be able to attend, are there some churches you can visit together near where they will go to college? Perhaps some of this can be done on a visit home a year or two before graduation. Do they know about various denominations and what they teach? Do they know about Mormons and JW’s and other groups that twist or add to the Word and aggressively proselytize? Some of these things can be introduced while overseas or on visits home.
4. What about decision-making? Do your kids know how you make decisions? Do you flip a coin? Do you list the pros and cons? Do you seek God in prayer and His Word? Have you involved them in your decision-making processes so that they can learn first hand how to do this? This is something that must be taught. We have to make a point to include our kids in these decisions.
5. What do we do to prepare are kids for health/safety issues? It was mentioned above that they need to know about appointments and emergency numbers. They should also know simple-first aid, CPR, what to do in case of fire or electrical shock, what to do in case of natural disasters, etc. We have been teaching our children (little-by-little in age appropriate ways) about sex. What we had not realized until one visit home was to what extent (and with what vocabulary) an average 9-12 year old knows today. There were issues and items that our friend’s 5th grade boy was being confronted with by very promiscuous girls, which we would have never imagined. We would be doing our kids a grave injustice if we didn’t prepare them for confronting this. Some of our kids won’t confront it so intensely until college, but some of you may be putting your children in a public or private school on home leave. Prior to that time make sure you talk with your kids about these issues as well. Find out from friends and educators what to expect before you go.
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