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My 14 yo son is interested going on a summer missions trip to Mt. Kilamanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. His mother is pushing him to go, but has just sprung the idea on me. Everything looks fine about the trip (reputable group with long, positive track record, worthy cause, etc.) except for one thing: it is 8 weeks long.

In general, I'm the opposite of over-protective, and encourage my kids to try things. When I was a kid, I had an awesome experience spending 3 weeks in Australia when I was 16, but I know I was getting homesick before the 3 weeks were up. I'm struggling to see how 8 weeks away from family and friends (he would have others in his group) makes sense for a 14 yo.

FWIW, My son has done great on week-long summer camps, etc.

Any thoughts on how to know if a long trip away from family and friends is appropriate for a teen?

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    Everyone is different and if he want to, let him! When I was 15 I went on a 10month exchange year to the US over 7000km away from home. And it helped me a lot with my life even though I started feeling homesick after a few month. – Pudora Jan 3 '17 at 15:24
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Everything looks fine about the trip (reputable group with long, positive track record, worthy cause, etc.) except for one thing: It is 8 weeks long.

Is this a group that has a lot of experience planning such trips for 14-year-olds?
The answer to the main question:

Any thoughts on how to know if a long trip away from family and friends is appropriate for a teen?

depends a lot on the details of what kind of trip it is and what the experiences during the trip will be like. Although it's hard to tell for sure from your question, it sounds like this is a reputable group which plans 8-week trips that are appropriate for the age of the participants, quite successfully.

You cited your trip to Australia and noted

I know I was getting homesick before the 3 weeks were up.

and there's a good chance your son will experience at least some moments of homesickness (as well as other various discomforts) during those 8 weeks. But, here's the thing: he'll get over it. From your description, it sounds like the group will have leaders trained in helping kids get through perfectly normal feelings of missing home, such as by acknowledging and reinforcing the value of home but also bringing focus to the situation and opportunities at hand.

8 weeks away from family and friends

It'll be 8 weeks away from family, but probably 8 weeks of rich interactions with new friends. You may have a hard time pulling him away from those new friends when you pick him up at the end of it.

  • Nice answer, and welcome to Parenting.SE! – Dan Henderson Mar 24 '16 at 19:33
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Although you may feel that this is a long time (I agree it is) every kid is different. He may not get homesick. He may be one of those kids that will be just fine. I would definitely encourage this kind of thing. It is an amazing opportunity for your son to learn and be exposed to different cultures. I would just be open and honest with him and let him know that if he goes he is there for the 8 weeks, and you can't just hop in the car and go and get him.
If he is showing an interest in going he may just be ok. You know your child best and know what he can handle, just keep talking about it and you will make the right choice for him.
He will be so busy I am sure the 8 weeks will fly by. Good Luck

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