Your exchange student is a normal teen with feelings and emotions. Like most teens, they will want to date and get to know their peers. During their stay here in the United States, they are bound to be attracted to a classmate, neighbor, or friend of a friend. What do you do if the friendship moves beyond casual dating to a more serious relationship?
Teenage love can be intense and dramatic. With such high emotions, these kinds of relationships can be a distraction to the exchange student’s overall experience. It can even adversely affect their classroom performance which might even threaten their stay here in America. For this reason, international student exchange programs strongly oppose exchange students becoming seriously involved. Your student will inevitably have to return home. If they “fall in love”, it is bound to lead to heartbreak.
If your student appears to be falling in love, don’t panic. Most young relationships don’t last long. If it seems to get more serious, you’ll want to inform your local representative so they can support you in talking with your student.
Can Exchange Students Date?
Exchange student programs expect students to experience life as an American high schooler. Because most teenagers date, it would be unreasonable to ask exchange students to not date. To avoid problems, you might encourage your exchange student to date with friends and in groups. They can go to the movies or cosmic bowling with other couples. The hope is that spending their time all together, your exchange student will be less likely to become emotionally or sexually involved with a boyfriend/girlfriend.
Your student might come to you and ask permission to date someone one-on-one after they’ve been going out on couples’ dates. It is up to you whether to say yes or no. However, repeatedly dating the same person, one-on-one, is usually when the problems begin.
Who Can Your Exchange Student Date?
Most exchange students date someone from school meaning they are age-appropriate. When approving a date, you’ll want to make sure your student is dating a peer. Dating older men or women is strongly prohibited by exchange student programs. Your exchange student is young and vulnerable, they will look to you to protect and guide them so don’t be afraid to speak up when needed.
Recognizing Potential Problems
Like with your own children, you’ll want to monitor your exchange student’s dating life. This way, if there is a problem, you can get ahead of it. How do you know if their relationship is becoming a problem?
Here are some signs:
- Your exchange student is spending most of their time with one person.
- To spend time with this person, they are missing out on extracurricular activities and fun activities with family and friends.
- They are always on the phone talking or texting that one friend.
- Your exchange student is having problems in school academically.
- Your exchange student is skipping school to spend time with their girlfriend/boyfriend.
If you see any of these things happening, have a serious conversation with your student. You can also implement these changes to try to help the situation.
- Remind your student of the expectations of the exchange student program.
- Tell them only dating the same person will take away from their cultural experience.
- Encourage them to get to know other young people in and outside of their school.
- Place limits on the time that they can spend with their boyfriend/girlfriend. This includes talking on the phone and texting.
- Get to know their friend and invite them to family activities to keep them from being alone often. This will also help you to get to know the intentions of their special friend.
Even with all of your efforts, your exchange student might still “fall in love”. If this happens, be sure your local representative is aware of what you are seeing. They will support you and meet with your student to discuss potential issues associated with serious dating.
Although dating concerns are common, they rarely turn into serious problems. Nonetheless, in some unique situations exchange students have wanted to marry or have become pregnant during their stay in America. This is not said to scare you as these stories are not common, nonetheless, dating is one action that should not be taken lightly with your exchange student. Remember, as host parents, you have an obligation to protect, nurture, and guide your student while they are in your care.