Are you looking forward to furlough or dreading it? Probably it is a mixture of both those feelings. Since many PWs go on furlough during the summer, December seemed a good time to talk about furlough planning.
Your husband has probably already been emailing contacts to plan the itinerary. Email has made that process so much faster and easier.
If you purchase round trip tickets from outside the US, check out Visit USA fares between cities in the US. Different airlines offer different packages, so be sure to compare plans. Some airlines may have great prices, but don’t go to the destinations you need. You must carefully plan the order of stops because changing those sectors can be very costly.
If you will be traveling by road, MATS can help. They buy and recondition cars for full-time workers to lease or buy while in the States on furlough. They were able to arrange for us to pick up a car in Portland, Oregon and drop it off in Cincinnati, Ohio. The price was right and they were so good to work with. You can contact them at their web site: www.mats.org or call (888)776-7211 or (765)965-7777 or fax (765)962-9966.
When planning the itinerary, be sure to plan a few times for sightseeing and fun and recreation for the whole family. PW children often have the advantage of seeing parts of their home country that their peers never get to see. Take the opportunity to let them experience the richness of their home culture. It really isn’t wasted time or expense.
Preparing your children ahead of time can make the furlough much more enjoyable for everyone. Your youngest children may not remember anything from back home. They may speak another language better than they speak their mother tongue. They have been absorbing a different culture and way of thinking. These are all admirable traits when serving overseas, but may make them seem odd and cause them to be shunned when with their peers in their home country.
Take the next months to show them pictures of “home,” their aunts, uncles, and cousins. Show them pictures of the homes they will stay in and stores they will go to. Begin “practicing” greetings and table manners, if these will differ from what they are used to on the field.
Help them to look forward to staying in different places as an adventure, maybe even a game. It will help a lot if they can see the changes in rules from one home to another as a puzzle to be figured out.
In one home the hostess serves cookies and milk to the kids while they watch TV. In the next home, children can’t drink anything unless they are in the kitchen or sitting at the table. In one home toys are scattered all over the house and in the next, children can only play with one toy at a time and must put toys back before getting out the next one. These constant fluctuations are hard on our children. But making a game out of finding out what the rules are, can take the frustration out of it.
Some PWs expect their children to participate in presentations from their field and to wear national costumes. Carefully consider your child’s desire to sit with their peers and not to be part of your “show and tell.” The financial support you seek is not worth your child’s failure to adjust to life in their home culture.
Sometimes your children will be invited to go to the youth camp of the church you are visiting. These can be wonderful opportunities for your children to make friends and feel at home. Be sure to make it the child’s choice if they go or not, however. They are experiencing so many new things, they may not feel secure unless they are near you.
For teenagers furlough can be exciting or devastating. This furlough is laying the groundwork for their re-entry to life in their home country. Be sure to prepare them ahead of time for the inevitable offers of drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity. They need to be secure in the knowledge that they CAN make friends without getting into dangerous practices.
Encourage your teen to learn the slang and “soak up” the culture as much as possible. But help them to learn the difference between things that are just “different” and things that are “wrong.” Keeping the lines of communication open will go a long way to helping your teen have a successful furlough.
While home, check out the different re-entry programs available for your older teens. Most of these are for high school graduates. The cost is kept low, but the experience is rich and fulfilling for the young people who attend. You might also consider stopping at some colleges and universities to help your older teens begin to decide where they will attend college. They may be too young yet to have any idea where they will want to go, but these visits can make the decision easier when the time comes.