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Why Being Part of a Host Family Can Benefit Your Teen (and Everyone Else)

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hosting an exchange student

Although many parents have considered the possibility of their teen going overseas as an exchange student, and are aware of how awesome the experience can be, fewer have given thought to welcoming an exchange student into their home. However, playing host to a teen from another land can bring with it just as many positives for your own teen, and the family as a whole.

What Does Being a Host Family Involve?

The dynamics vary among host families and can include those that have children, single-parented families or older couples, and usually involve hosting students from overseas, although not necessarily so. A host family does not receive any financial compensation; however, there are some exchange organizations that do contribute towards the students’ living costs.

Naturally, careful checks are carried out by the organization responsible to ascertain whether a family is a suitable candidate for hosting an exchange student, and usually start with a home visit. A reputable organization will ensure that there is always close contact between themselves and the exchange student, such as liaising with the student’s school (if applicable). It is also their job to provide support and guidance to the host family.

The Responsibilities of a Host Family

A host family is responsible for providing all meals, a bed (although the student can share a room), somewhere quiet to study, and transport. All other costs will usually be covered by the student.

In conjunction with having a stable home life, a potential host family will need to spend plenty of quality time with each other, such as eating meals together, enjoying fun activities, and going on family outings; it is important that all family members are willing to share this time, and accept someone new into the fold.

However, although it is important to make an exchange student feel welcome and part of the family, there are some aspects of family life they don’t need to see, such as blazing rows or situations that will make them feel awkward.

A host family should also be fully aware of their responsibility, with their guest’s safety paramount. This means following common sense guidelines used for their own children, such as setting reasonable curfews, and ensuring they behave in a safe and responsible manner.

Ways it is Beneficial for Your Family

Families of all sizes reap the benefits of hosting an international student. The young person coming to stay in your home will bring with them a different perspective and culture that will open your own children (and you) up to new experiences.

Children, especially teens, will learn an incredible amount just by being around someone from another country. Teens can be very insular, often with little regard or understanding about how things are for others. Some will have very little insight into how life is in a country that is perhaps poorer, or with differing religious beliefs, or cultures. Not only can they learn a great deal from hearing about the world from another person’s perspective, but having an exchange student gives every family member the chance to talk about their homeland. This allows them to reflect on things they perhaps hadn’t considered before, such as how fortunate they are, which often promotes a sense of pride and appreciation for where they live.

Allowing an exchange student into your home can cultivate a sense of family spirit, as all members pull together to make someone feel safe and comfortable in their home. Friendships spring up between teens, allowing a bond to develop that can last a lifetime, which could also lead to future travel possibilities for your own teen, or even the whole family.

It’s also important to consider the effect the exchange has on the student. The lessons they learn from being in your country can be taken home with them, undoubtedly enhancing their life, making it an incredibly rewarding experience for everyone.

Natural Concerns

It would be very odd not to have some trepidation about inviting a complete stranger into your home. Although difficulties could always arise, students are also put through rigorous checks to make sure they are respectable, bright and proven to get on with others.

Usually, the host family is involved in the selection process, with communication encouraged ahead of the student arriving; so prospective host families will have a good idea of who they are expecting long before they turn up on the doorstep. It is also important to remember the teen wants to be there, and is therefore invariably expecting (and willing) to immerse themselves fully in family life, which means that antisocial or demanding behavior is not the norm.

Although it goes without saying that several months (or even longer) with another teen in the house might prove hairy at times, and imagining a constantly harmonious and uneventful time is simply unrealistic, dealing with any inevitable hiccups along the way is likely to enhance the whole experience further.

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