Should I Be in Contact With Our Exchange Student’s Natural Parents?

Congratulations on considering or agreeing to take an exchange student. Along with adding another person to your home and family, you’ll learn about a new culture and will expand your knowledge of the world. 

After the exchange student program accepts your family as hosts, you’ll be shown some prospective students. Your family can then select a couple of students you think would fit into your home. Once a match is made, you’ll be given contact information for your student. They will then call you or you will contact them via Skype, WhatsApp or some other platform. This means you’ll also get a chance to say hello to their parents and other family members. On these calls, you’ll build trust and friendship with your student. At this time, you can also lessen their parent’s fears and put them a little more at ease. 

You should talk more to the natural parents before the student leaves home. Somewhat like a meet and greet session, you’ll probably tell them about you and will introduce them to your kids and the family pets. They might in turn ask you questions about the weather, the school and community. On this call (or calls) you’ll also gain insight into your exchange student’s home life. 

Host Parents Should Be Cordial With the Natural Parents But Don’t Talk Too Much

Once your student is in the United States, should you stay in contact with the parents? This can be tricky after you’ve established a relationship with them. When their student calls home, the natural parents will probably want to say hello to you. It is perfectly fine for you to have a casual conversation with them, but be careful about getting too involved or talking too much. They’ll likely ask you how things are going. This is not the time to tell them that their student is not keeping their room clean or doesn’t eat enough vegetables. Keep everything short and sweet. 

Most exchange students call home weekly when they first arrive. Your local exchange student coordinator will do their best to try and discourage the student from calling home so often. The hope is that they will get to the point that they are only calling home once or twice a month. If you are overly friendly with the natural parents, they may call their child or encourage the child to call them more often. Talking with their parents too much can cause them to be homesick or hinder their bonding with you and your family. Depending on how they are calling home, it can also be expensive for your student to talk to their parents. Therefore, you’ll want to be respectful and not monopolize the conversation. 

Don’t Betray Your Exchange Student’s Trust

You will take a parental role with your exchange student from the day that they enter your home. They’ll come to you with their problems and will tell you all about school, friends and their favorite tv shows over dinner. You’ll also become their confidante and they’ll want to talk to you about crushes on classmates or their fears when trying out for the team. If you begin to talk too much to their parents about them, they might start to shy away from confiding in you. Your sharing their personal thoughts could also be viewed as betrayal which will lead to mistrust. 

Overbearing Natural Parents

Some natural parents are overbearing and have trouble letting their children grow up. Ideally, if there are problems, you’ll want the student to approach you directly so you can address things head-on.  If you have too much open communication with the natural parents, they might come to you with problems or concerns their child has shared with them. They might also ask you questions about their child that you are uncomfortable answering.  Along with stunting the exchange student’s growth and development, your being too close to the natural parents can adversely affect your relationship with the student. Again, it is perfectly acceptable and even expected that you would be friendly with your exchange student’s natural parents. Just be sure to set boundaries. 

Quick Hellos are Best

Throughout the year, you can be cordial with quick hellos or waves to the natural parents if they are on FaceTime. But only do this if your exchange student asks you to. After having a quick chat with the parents, you should leave the room to allow your student to have some privacy. 

Follow your exchange student’s lead. If they want you to talk more to their parents you can while still being careful. Some students, however, might not want you to have any communication with their natural parents back home. If this is the case, be respectful of their desires and keep your distance. 

When your student is closer to returning home, you can begin to talk more to the natural parents. You might even invite them for a visit at the end of the school year. Most schools will hold a graduation ceremony that includes an acknowledgment of all the exchange students. This is an ideal time for them to come and spend some time with you and your family.