Telling my parents that I wanted to do a year of service after graduation was one of the most stressful things I’ve had to do in my life. While I knew that I was going forward with my decision to join VMC whether or not they agreed, I prayed every day leading up to our discussion that I would have their support.
I’ll be honest in saying that my parents were not completely on board when I first brought the topic up to them at the dinner table. It didn’t come as a surprise, given I have gone on my brief service trips in the past; but this was a whole year, in a city hundreds of miles away from home, that didn’t provide any income as a normal job would. That for them was a hard pill to swallow. It took my parents some time to come to terms with my decision, but they came around. They fact that they knew this is what I wanted and that there would be other volunteers with me brought them an immense set of comfort.
If you’re planning to do a year of service and are worried about telling your parents or what they will think, here are some tips that tend to help:
~ Get all the details: Find out where the program is located, how long it is, the name/contact info of the person in charge, and what the program covers. When my dad first heard that I would only be getting a $125 monthly stipend he was shocked. However, after I explained to him that VMC would cover my housing, rent, utilities, food, and also provide me with a company vehicle he became much more relieved.
~ Set a time: Discussions like these can be hard for parents. As such, its best to have a set time that you bring it up rather than just mentioning it in passing. Find what works for your family. If you all like to eat dinner together once a night, try it then. Or, if you are like my family where everyone is constantly in and out of the house or live separately, let your parents know ahead of time you want to talk with them and set a date.
~ Be honest with your feelings: Let them know why you’ve made this decision and how you feel about it. Give them space to voice their opinions, even if it means they disagree. It’s important that both of you feel heard and listen to what each other have to say.
~ If they say no: It is not uncommon that your parents will tell you they don’t think it’s a good idea or even more directly they tell you no. If this happens, don’t fight with them. Let them know you understand why they may feel that way and ask that they at least think about it some more. Give them their space and try not to rush them. This is where having the name and number of the program director comes in handy because it allows them to ask questions directly.
Ultimately the final say is your decision, but it helps when you have support. Family and even friends may not understand why you’ve chosen to do a year a service, but they’ll come around in time. As a young adult it’s important to follow what you feel you’re being called to. It might be new, it might be scary, but it’s going to be something that changes your life.
Words cannot describe how much VMC impacted me over those 10 months. If given the chance I would make the same decision over and over again. VMC helped me find my passion, discover who I was, and grow in more ways than one. At the present moment it’s the best year I’ve ever had in my life and I wish all future VMC volunteers the best luck.
Next week, we will share an article from Linnea’s father, Dave, “Supporting Your Child In A Year of Service.”