Something for African parents: What to do when your child is abroad

Hey y’all

Apologies for being MIA, I am super grateful for your support despite my ad hock posts 🙂

Trust in your child

Trust is important because as a parent you want to be the first person your kid runs to in happy times (like being on the Dean’s merit list), but even more so when things are going badly. Why? You would be able to guide them well and they can pick themselves up based on your unconditional love (e.g. try another degree, change cities, re-take that exam, class,etc.). Having someone believe in you in your darkest hour makes a HUGE difference esp. when that person is family!

This will always be a difficult one as too little trust alienates your child, and too much of it can be abused. We have all heard of that one family with the kid that went to study “over the seas”, picture-10became MIA at some point but kept receiving school fees and pocket money just to come back 10 years later; and realise they stopped studying 2 years into their stay and have been chilling or doing odd things (abeg!). Truth be told, in many of these cases-the kid often gave up studying out of shame instead of sharing his struggles and being orientated well. Be that parent that trusts in your kid, and allow them to approach you for anything. On the upside, you will also control them more easily… 🙂 lol!

Stay in touch

I find that this rule means different things for different children. My parents never gave up on me (despite the fact that on 9/10 times they called, I would miss their call… lol!) & and still called at least once a week on average… My mother went the extra mile and would call before every exam and/or major test to pray with me: this was gold and really helped boost my confidence! On the other hand, my brother could go on for 1-2 months before contacting my parents which drove them absolutely crazy.

Truth is every child is different, I would recommend at least a call every 2 weeks especially at the beginning during the adjusting phase (this is so easy nowadays and does not cost much with FaceTime, Whatsapp, Viber,etc-which we did not have 10 years ago). Staying in touch will also help you keep track of/understand your child’s routine & pick up anything “weird”/”not right” in time. Looking back I definitely took my parents’ effort to communicate for granted & now make more of an effort to call them as well-just like any other relationship it has to be a two-way street with people that we love.

Money matters

Understand the costs of living where your child intends to study. It is important to know whether what you send is double what they need to live (in that case you could maybe afford that holiday) and/or too little-that way, your child knows exactly what you can and picture-11cannot afford. Anything else (and/or extra) will have to come from their own sweat.

I also know some parents who chose to remove temptation away from their children by paying school fees directly into the university account, this way kids are NEVER ever tempted to use that money for anything else. This also depends on the attitude both you and your kid have developed towards money. For e.g. in most cases, parents send an equal amount of money to siblings (boys and/or girls) but for some reasons in Africa guys are expected to have the extra required to treat the girl they are into  i.e. anything from airtime, footing the bill at restaurants, to hair/clothes,etc.(this is easy in Congolese Francs,not so much in Euros/USD,lol!).

Moral support

Assuming you trust your child and are now in touch with him/her regularly-there is NO doubt that your child will go through hardships. This is just the normal adulting process: some will be consequences of silly/wrong decisions they made (e.g. failing a course due to missing lectures/focusing too much on a boyfriend/girlfriend) but others will simply be because life is hard.

Putting your child in touch with Papa XYZ, Maman XYZ, this one’s child because he did well,etc etc will not change the fact that at the end of the day, you are probably THE only person that cares most about your child: your words,love and attitude matter (even for the least emotional ones).

Share your struggles

Life outside can get very detached from the reality of many African families (e.g. temperature/size of lattes, having wifi or not, etc. become genuine problems…lol!). Sharing with your kid the problems you are facing (i.e. money, work, marital and/or health wise) not only helps them stay grounded but also makes you human in their eyes. It removes that barrier of fear and helps build trust and better communication.

Know their host country

In most cases, the reality is that many parents will not have enough money to visit their children regularly (#africanproblems). However, I strongly encourage anyone with a kid overseas to save up and go see where/how your child is living/coping at least once every 2 years…Why? In my case, my parents did not speak English and at had only been to South Africa once on very busy work trips. Thanks to the almighty, later on-for some reason they could visit more regularly and got to understand the educational system in South Africa much better.  Seeing us struggle through our busy engineering studies made them decide that whenever they would find someone willing to carry food, they would send us basically one entire month supply of cooked Congolese goodies to save us the hustle of cooking/deciding what to eat (& Gosh it helped!). They also knew that our engineering lab had no network, so we could either speak really early in the morning and/or late at night after class (we were not being rude, lol!). Lastly, they understood that while June is a holiday season in Congo, it is exams period in SA-so we agreed that December was a better time to visit as we could spend quality time together.

Visiting your child can also help you earn your child’s respect and realise you have not done a shallow job at raising a decent human being & off course pat yourself on the back…lol! In the words of my friend’s father he realised that “his daughter was so much more stronger than he assumed, not only did she adapt quickly but she managed to pass all her courses despite arriving late in France due to a late visa”.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I would love to hear from my readers, whether parents or not…feel free to share this with anyone who is preparing for their big trip to study abroad. Leave a comment down below based on your experience. This post is also a bit of a tribute to my AMAZING parents looking back at my journey abroad: while they were miles and miles away, I can definitely attribute at least 80% of ANYTHING I have achieved to their incredible support & constant prayers, God know much it carried me in moments of doubts!

Stay well & loads of love!

XxKenaya

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