Tips from Host Parents
to new host families
Before your exchange son’s or daughter’s arrival
5 things you can do to prepare your family and home for your exchange son’s or daughter’s arrival
1. Get in touch with your exchange son or daughter
The exchange organization will provide you with the student’s contact information. Send a welcoming message before the student’s arrival to show your excitement to welcome your exchange son or daughter in your family. This contact will also decrease the anxiety for the student and natural parents, since leaving your home country, friends and family behind and travel to the “unknown” is not easy for any teenager. The natural parents will feel more secure when they know their child is going to a welcoming home.
2. Learn about your exchange son or daughter
The exchange organization will also provide you personal information about the student. Make sure to remember the student’s birthday and special food allergies (if any) or dietary restrictions (based on religion). The student’s hobbies and passions are nice topics for initial conversations.
3. Prepare a bedroom for your exchange son or daughter
Your exchange son or daughter can share a bedroom (with his or her own bed) with one of your children. If you have the space it would be nice to give your exchange son or daughter a room of his or her own.
Set up a study space - Part of most exchange programs is participation in a local high school or college. Set up a quite place where your exchange son or daughter can study. This could be in his or her bedroom or somewhere else in your home.
4. Give your exchange son or daughter access to contact home
Students may feel homesick, especially at first. Giving them ways to contact their family and friends back home will help them feel connected to their loved ones. This will make it easier for them to adjust to their new home with you.
5. Attend a preparation seminar
Quality exchange organizations will invite host parents to join a seminar to prepare them for hosting. This is your chance to meet the organization’s staff and volunteers face to face, meet and connect with other (experienced) host families, ask questions and discuss strategies to ensure that every member of your family gets the most out of the hosting experience. It will be great to see that you are not the only one with questions, and your insecurities are shared by others. However, you will be assured that the exchange organization is with you every step of the way during the hosting experience to guide, help and support you in this great journey to gain a more global perspective and appreciation for other cultures and customs.
When your exchange son or daughter arrives
To help new host parents prepare, we have drawn from the wisdom of experienced host parents. Their top tips to make sure your exchange son or daughter’s arrival goes smoothly are listed below:
Figure out what your exchange son or daughter is going to call you
You can have him or her call you mom or dad or by your first name. Whatever it is you would like them to call you, be sure to tell your exchange son or daughter what that is. This is a good way of opening up communication among the family and making yourself approachable to your exchange son or daughter.
Be clear about your family's house rules
Write down any house rules and go through them with your exchange son or daughter. The student is in a totally new situation, and some structure will help adjust and adapt to your family. Writing down house rules also makes your family realize what kind of unwritten rules you have developed together over time. It is impossible for your exchange son or daughter to be aware of these, if you don’t address the rules.
Give your exchange son or daughter some "alone" time each day
Your exchange son or daughter will be a part of your family in no time, but everyone needs privacy. Your exchange son or daughter can be quite overwhelmed and tired in the beginning by all the new experiences and situations. Learning a new language, getting to know their host family, trying to make friends and attend school all at the same time. Give your exchange son or daughter some time to themselves each day. A little privacy can go a long way in building trust.
Don’t plan too much activities, at first
We know you are excited and your exchange son or daughter is too. But they’ve also just arrived in an unfamiliar place after a long trip, so give them a little time to adjust. You’ll have plenty of time for activities once the jet lag has worn off. It is nice if you familiarize your exchange son or daughter with your hometown, where to find shops, how to travel to school etcetera.
Please be patient
Your exchange son or daughter will need some time to get used to aspects of your daily life, that might be very different from what he or she used to. Of course you are there to provide guidance, but some things just have to be experienced.
During the hosting experience
3 key considerations that will assure both your family and your exchange son or daughter a great experience:
1. Your exchange son or daughter is not a guest
Exchange organizations recommend you to interact with your exchange son or daughter as a family member. You will not be able to keep up treating your exchange son or daughter as a guest for the entire duration of the exchange program. Your exchange son or daughter will even feel more part of the family if you have the same expectations and rules for him or her. That means that you can give them some chores, just like everyone else in your family helps out
2. Ongoing communication is key
Host families and their exchange sons or daughters occasionally experience small miscommunications, because of language differences, cultural backgrounds or expectations. Keep talking to one another when such a situation occurs. Keep in mind that both of you have the best intentions towards each other. If you feel you could use someone’s advice, the exchange organization usually gives you a contact person to reach out to in such situations.
3. Schedule "You" time
Continue your social patterns as usual. Just like your exchange daughter or son needs privacy at times, you need the same. Feel free to go out for dinner with just your partner or friend, or do something with just one of your children for a change. You will notice that all family members will be happiest when everyone get's attention. Your family life and social events should not only evolve around your exchange daughter or son, even though including her or him in your social life is priceless at the same time.