Most exchange students sign up for a study abroad program for one entire school year. This can seem like forever to a teenager and even longer for their natural parents. For this reason, many parents are eager to visit their students. Along with missing them, they might also be concerned about their child and want to meet you. Although this is understandable, a visit from natural parents can be detrimental to the cultural experience.
“No Family Visit” Policy and Exchange Student Programs
For this reason, many exchange student programs have a “no family visit” policy. Both your student and their natural parents were told about this rule at orientation but some might overlook it. They might think it is an arbitrary rule because they’ve heard of friends who visited their child while he/she was studying abroad. No matter what students and natural parents think, there are really good reasons why a natural parent’s visit should not be allowed until close to the time the student is returning home.
Why is This the Policy?
Natural Parents Want to Travel to the US With the Student
Your student will arrive a couple of weeks before school starts. Consequently, some natural parents think it is a good time for them to come. They want to bring the student, get to know you and see a little of the country before the exchange student starts school. Although it is convenient and sounds reasonable, it is a bad idea. Here is why.
- Exchange students arrive early so they can get to know your family. This is the perfect opportunity for you all to get to know each other. If their natural parents come along, the student will not let go of them which will keep them from bonding with you.
- Some students want to study abroad to become more independent. If their parents travel with them, it can hinder their growth and progress.
- The student might be invited to do something fun with other kids but can’t because they must spend time with their natural parents.
- Your exchange student is bound to be homesick. It is best for them to work through this problem early and before school begins. If their natural parents are with them, they will have to work through their fears and anxieties “after” they leave for home.
Natural Parents Want to Visit During the Holidays
The natural parent might hear about the long winter break and think this is a good time to visit. It is also during the Christmas season which can be a difficult time for the exchange student and their natural parents to be apart. For this reason, it would seem like the perfect time for them to take a trip to the United States. Although this might sound good in theory, this is also a bad idea. Here is why:
- Americans have different holiday traditions than in other countries. If the exchange student’s natural parents visit during the holidays, they will not get the full experience of celebrating the holiday with you.
- Your exchange student will have become accustomed to speaking English daily. If the natural parents or relatives visit, they’ll get back in the habit of speaking in their native language which can cause a setback.
- November/December is about the time that exchange students begin to settle in. They are often playing sports at school and have friends they hang out with on weekends. A visit from their natural parents during this time will interrupt that process.
- Your student will be elated to see their parents for the holidays but what about when it is time for them to leave? After your student’s natural parents leave, they could begin to feel homesick and possibly withdrawn again like they were when they first arrived.
Natural Parents Permitted to Visit Later in the Year
It is understandable that your exchange student will want their parents to visit. They’ll want them to meet you, get to know their friends and see their school. It will also be exciting for you to meet them and share some of your funny stories about their child’s school year with them. This is perfectly fine if the trip is scheduled later in the stay.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Exchange Students
If your exchange-student is staying just one semester or five months, the program will only permit a visit from the parents two-three weeks prior to the student departing. Students in the country for 10 months or the entire school year might be allowed to get a visit from their parents after mid-January (depending upon the program) or at the end of the school year.
Encourage Natural Parents to Attend Graduation Ceremony
Many schools invite their exchange students to take part in graduation ceremonies although they aren’t really getting a diploma. You should invite the natural parents to the graduation which is a perfectly good time for them to visit. Along with meeting you, they’ll have time to meet the extended family, some of your student’s classmates, and a few teachers. It will also be a proud moment for the student and they will be thrilled to have their natural parents there.
Should I Invite The Natural Parents to Stay in My Home?
If you are comfortable and have room, you can invite the natural parents to stay in your home. However, this is not required or even expected. Instead, you can help by suggesting hotels and lodging options nearby. You can also make the natural parents feel welcome by picking them up at the airport, having them over for dinner, or inviting them to enjoy a day out on the water with you and the family.
Please note that the exchange student program will have to grant approval for the natural parents to visit whenever they plan to come. The local or area representative will also talk with you to make sure you are comfortable with the plans and arrangements.