Initially, your exchange student will have a hard time adjusting to their new life in America. They will have difficulty with the language, feel awkward around the house and will struggle to make friends. Although having a host sibling can help, should you force your child to spend time with the exchange student?
If your child is at the same school as the exchange student, you should encourage them to show the student around and introduce them to a few people. Sometimes, the two will become fast besties. But in most cases, it will take a while. Let the relationship build naturally and don’t force things. If you do, your child could come to resent the exchange student. It might also hinder your exchange student’s maturation and development. Being with your child all the time could even keep the exchange student from making their own friends and getting to know the school and community.
At home, allow the kids to have their own space. If your child is in their bedroom and the exchange student is in the family room, don’t force your child to go entertain the exchange student. Remember, the student will be with you for almost a year and will need to learn to find things to do alone. The truth is, your child and student will bond suddenly without you or them even thinking about it.
Things They Have In Common
One way the kids can bond is over a common hobby or interest. If the two enjoy playing golf, they can go to the driving range together or play a round of golf over the weekend. Does your son/daughter like to cook? Give the teens a cooking night in which they will prepare a meal for the family. Working together will help them get to know one another.
Although they will have some things in common, they will also have different interests. Encourage these differences and avoid trying to get them to always do things together. Being apart will help each of them to grow and they will better appreciate the time they share together.
Time Away From The Parents
The kids might have trouble being themselves around you. For this reason, it is important that they go somewhere alone without parental supervision. You’ll be surprised at how fast they’ll have fun and laugh together when they’re away. For example, you can let them go to the mall to shop for a few things before school starts. They might also go someplace where teens hang out like the beach or skateboard park.
Personal Space And Personal Time
It is a good idea for both your natural child and your exchange student to have their own personal space and time alone. Avoid problems by giving each teen a place to get away to. Even if they share a room, this can be done creatively by hanging a screen divider or curtains for privacy. When there is a shared room, your child might feel like their space is being invaded. In turn, the exchange student might feel like they’re intruding. Separating the room can help them both relax and feel more at ease.
The Child And Exchange Student At School
At school, the kids might go their separate ways. Think about it like normal siblings. They will have their own set of friends, play different sports, and might even have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Don’t encourage your child to make adjustments to their schedule to accommodate your student. For example, don’t ask your child to change their lunch hour so they can eat with your student. Let your student work it out. Part of the purpose of student exchange is to build independence and teach a student how to deal with tough situations.
This doesn’t mean that your child should not assist his/her new sibling as needed. On the contrary. The goal is to have them genuinely care about the student and give them their support. However, you should let your child step in and help in ways in which they are comfortable. It will be different for them to do things from the heart instead of because they are being told to by you.
Make sure your natural child is on board with your taking an exchange student before you commit. Although your child approves or is even excited, this doesn’t mean that they won’t have times they seem to be having a problem with the exchange student. This could be that they are having a bad day or trying to get used to them being around. Don’t blow it out of proportion. Instead, give it time to work itself out. If, however, you find it to become a serious problem, be sure to contact your local program representative for help.