How To Set Rules For My Exchange Student

“Fish and visitors stink after three days.” Benjamin Franklin.

You’re excited to welcome your exchange student to your home so you don’t want to offend them by asking them to remove their shoes or to not eat in their bedrooms. It can be tempting to treat your exchange student like a guest. If you do though, like fish, after a while they’ll begin to stink. You’ll dislike picking up after them constantly and your kids could resent them for not having to complete chores or help with housework. 

Setting clear expectations is key to a successful hosting experience. Along with setting house rules for your exchange student, you’ll also want to let your exchange student know what you expect from them in terms of their schoolwork, social behaviors and respect for others in the family.

Foreign Exchange Student Program Rules

Before setting any rules, be sure you’re familiar with the guidelines and regulations set by your exchange student program. All the rules you set for your student must be in compliance with their rules.

Here are a few examples of program rules that you should know:

  • Most programs forbid the student from getting tattoos or piercings.
  • Students cannot drive or operate any motorized vehicle while enrolled in a foreign exchange program. 
  • A student cannot change host families without the permission of the program. 
  • Alcohol and drugs are prohibited. 
  • The student must continuously make satisfactory academic progress to remain in the program. 
  • Obey the laws of the land.
  • Students cannot travel without adult supervision.
  • Students cannot get married or become pregnant. 
  • Students are not allowed to work. 

When Should I Talk With My Exchange Student About Rules?

To help your hosting experience go more smoothly, your exchange student program will hold an orientation for you and your family. This orientation will be lots of fun and will give you the chance to meet other families who are also awaiting their student. The local coordinator will go over the program rules and make suggestions for you in terms of your personal house rules. Part of that meeting will include equipping you with tools for sitting down with your student and discussing rules for your home.  

When meeting with your student about rules, you’ll be instructed to go over the program handbook and your house rules. The entire family should be invited to the meeting, so that everyone is on the same page. Have the house rules written down to make it easy to go through. You won’t want to have your meeting on the first day that the student arrives because your student will be tired and a little overwhelmed. It would be best to give them a couple of days to settle in before having your meeting. Don’t wait too long, however, so that your student doesn’t develop bad habits. Throughout the year, periodically schedule follow-up meetings to make sure the rules are clear and to address any problems you might see. 

Chores for Exchange Students

Chores contribute to the household

It’s important to have your student contribute to the management of the household. This includes completing chores. Before considering what chores to give your exchange student, think about what responsibilities your other children have. A good idea is to sit down as a family and divvy up the chores. If the kids can’t come to an agreement, you can place the chores in a hat or rotate them to be more fair. Make sure your student is clear about what chores they have and when they need to be done. Encourage them to write things down if you think they might forget. No matter how it goes, remember to be patient but consistent in reminding them of what you expect. 

Likely you’ll expect your exchange student to clean their room and do their own laundry. But what about chipping in on the household chores?

Read “Should My Exchange Student Do Chores Like My Child”

Here are a few things your exchange student can help you with:

  • Walking the dog.
  • Loading and unloading the dishwasher.
  • Vacuuming/sweeping the floors. 
  • Setting the table before meals.
  • Taking out the trash.
  • Cleaning up behind pets.
  • Shoveling snow.
  • Mowing the lawn. 

House Rules for the Exchange Student

Establishing house rules will help to keep your exchange student safe and will make them feel more secure while staying with you. They will also help you adjust to having another person living in your home. Don’t be afraid to tell your student to leave their shoes and outerwear in the mudroom when it rains if this is what you prefer. If you don’t, you’ll cringe every time you see them come indoors with their wet clothes. What about food? Do they have to ask before getting something out of the refrigerator or pantry, or are they free to eat whenever they are hungry? These are things you’ll want to consider and include in your set of rules. You’ll also want to set house rules relative to curfew, friends, checking in with you, and bedtimes.

Here are a few examples:

  • Don’t eat in your room. 
  • Complete your homework before watching television or getting on the internet.
  • Shower daily (your student may not be used to showering this often so you’ll want to mention this). 
  • Clean out the tub/shower after each use.
  • No friends over while the parents are not at home.
  • Remove your dishes from the table after you eat. 
  • Having a friend stay overnight (yes or no)?
  • Staying overnight with a friend (yes or no)? 
  • Knock before entering the bathroom or someone else’s bedroom.
  • What is the curfew on weeknights?
  • What is the curfew on the weekend? 
  • What to do if they will be late?
  • Should they text you when they get in from school?
  • What time do they need to be ready for school?
  • What are your expectations for school activities? Some host parents expect their student to join at least one club or sports team at school. 
  • No yelling or disrespecting others in the home. 

These are all things you’ll want to consider when setting house rules. 

Technology and Electronics – Rules for Use

If your student will use the washing machine and dryer for their laundry, make sure they know how to operate them. Don’t assume they know, it is best to assume that they don’t. Also, what time does the TV have to be off and what is the time limit for computer use? Although most exchange students will have their own computer and cell phone, some may not. Here, you might want to set a schedule for the use of the household computer. Even if they have their own, you should limit the time that they can be on their devices. Reason being, the more your student is communicating with friends and family from home, the longer it will take them to acclimate to America.

Finances and Your Exchange Student

As with many teens, your student might have trouble budgeting their money without your help. Be sure that your student knows what they will need to spend their money on. When talking about the house rules, this is the time to address the subject of money. Let your student know whether you expect them to pay if you go out to eat, or whether you’ll cover some of their entertainment expenses. For example, many parents will pay for the exchange student on family outings. Nonetheless, if the student goes out with friends, they will need to have their own money. 

All the rules for your exchange student should be in alignment with what you expect of your own children. Make sure you are being fair and not showing favoritism either way. Your program might recommend that you have your student sign a contract saying they will adhere to your rules. No matter how you present the rules, make sure your exchange student knows that you are setting rules because you care and want to protect them.