Ten Things You Don’t Want To Know About Hosting But Should

It’s been a while since I posted.  A real long while.  And I’m not going to rehash the last few months because they are deeply personal but here’s what you need to know.  T went home nearly two months ago, ahead of schedule.  Out of respect for him, his family and us I’m not going to share the nitty gritty details but I do think it’s important to share the things I’ve learned.  The things I wish I’d known before going through the rapid succession of events that led us all to call it quits on the year.  The things that I hope will help others if they find themselves in a similar situation.

  1. All students are wonderful.  They are vetted and interviewed to death.  They are smart.  They are fun.  They want to have an adventure.  There is no such thing as a bad student.  There are however, bad matches.  You can avoid a bad match by never jumping into something too quickly.  We made a snap decision on hosting T and I honestly can’t say we would have made a different decision had we gone more slowly.  Getting to know about a student, having time to read his application and other initial contact can help you gauge whether or not the match is right.
  2. Take time to communicate before hand.  With N we emailed quite a bit before she got here.  We never Skyped but we did send many emails and connect via FaceBook.  It helped everyone feel like they were on the journey together.  We emailed with T maybe once and we Skyped once he was at camp.  It was a little weird in the beginning because there was nothing connecting us.  But we quickly got over it.  All three of us.  Next year’s student, D, has had our rules for months.  This way there are no questions about how life in our house works.
  3. Be open to warning signs.  On a few occasions T made statements that I found a little weird.  Not creepy weird.  Not nose picking booger eating weird.  Just things I wouldn’t expect from him.  He was famous for saying things to see the reaction so I just dismissed these as those and moved on.  In the future I may call a child out on certain statements or ask a staff person through the exchange to help me understand them better.  I may force conversations.  This is especially important if the comments contradict your own beliefs and values in such a way that it could get ugly.  Different political views, religions… that’s stuff you have to be able to deal with as a family.  There are other core values you do not.  And if a student presses something that you find morally or ethically wrong you have a right to confront it.  This works both ways.  A student has every right to be concerned about ethical/moral issues in their home.  If you have questionable ethics/morals, you’d better think twice before bringing a kid into your house.
  4. Honesty is the best policy.  Always.  It’s kind of our number one rule in the house.  And if it’s not there, you need to fix it right away.  Do not allow lies to be dismissed or explained away or labeled as “miscommunication”.  Miscommunication is one thing.  A lie is another.  And while teenagers lie about everything from homework to whether or not they walked the dog, allowing this behavior can lead to disasters.  We don’t allow it.  But we didn’t always challenge it.  And there are some things that make an exchange very difficult.  Lying is one of them.  This being said, we understand why kids lie.  We were kids.  We lied.  The difference is that if you don’t handle it it can become a huge problem.  In our case, we handled it.  But it was still a problem.  If a student struggles with honesty an exchange year is not for them.  Even if the struggle makes sense.
  5. Students on exchange years are still teenagers with lots of hormones.  Their pre-frontal cortexes are not formed.  They are impulsive and forgetful and sometimes irresponsible.  They are discovering who they are.  You have to be able to live with this.  They also have to be able to live with certain expectations.  Forgetting to do something is fine.  Once in a while.  Failing to accept responsibility, a lack of personal accountability, and constant excuses are a sign of something bigger going on.  Figure it out and do something.
  6. Sometimes it doesn’t work out.  Exchange relationships are like any other – some are great and some are good.  Some are less than good.  Six kids from our area went home early this year.  It’s not because they were bad kids.  It’s because the exchange was not appropriately timed.  It’s because they had trouble understanding that things are different here.  That parents are different here.  That kids are different here.  It’s not necessarily one person’s fault.
  7. You have a right to end the exchange.  While many programs require a two week notice if you need a child removed, they cannot force you to keep a student who is breaking major rules.  A child who is breaking the law must be removed immediately.  They risk deportation and a trial and could, in rare circumstances, get incarcerated.  This did not happen in our home.  But we did get to a point where it was clear that T couldn’t stay here.  Our local person was amazing in understanding this.  The program was not.  Be clear if things are so bad you can’t go on.
  8. Not everything merits going home and you should have a plan for how to handle things should they go south.  In our case we started simple.  Because everyone has responsibilities that make the house run, if T forgot to do something, we had to pick it up.  Because he was forgetting so regularly we decided that if he forgot to do something of his, he would have to pick up something of ours for a week.  Considering the limited number of chores the kids have, this isn’t a huge deal.  But let me tell you, threatening a kid with being in charge of the litter box for a week is an amazing way to jump start his memory.  When things were a little more serious, we stepped it up.  We took away some travel.  This is a killer because it also hurts us, since we greatly enjoy this part of the exchange.  When things get really bad you need to be able to make a list of non-negotiable items that the student agrees to as a condition for staying.  And if they are broken, the student has to move.  Not having this type of plan ahead of time can lead to a nightmare.  For example, if a student is sending text messages that are getting her in trouble, make a non-negotiable item that the child has a right to privacy however because she has proved that she cannot appropriately text you will either have complete access to her text messages OR remove texting from her phone.  Sounds scary but it’s less scary than what inappropriate texts can lead to.
  9. Be careful of your relationship with your student’s natural parents.  We had limited contact with T’s parents, which is common when hosting a boy.  We did, however, always reach out to them if we were having any bumps in the road and they greatly appreciated it.  They also respected our right to govern our household appropriately.  This is not always the case, so make sure that you keep your distance and allow most conversation to be with the student and her parents or the organization and the parents.  I sent an update every 4-6 weeks with what we were doing, exciting stories and random emails to tell them something amazing T had done.  Because he did lots of amazing things.
  10. It’s not easy.  We all want it to be.  And it would be nice if it were.  But there are going to be challenges, big and small.  And you have to deal with them.

3 thoughts on “Ten Things You Don’t Want To Know About Hosting But Should

  1. Thank you very much for sharing. I can’t find a way to contact you personally through WordPress. If you know a way to contact me through e-mail, I’d be very interested to talk about what happened some more. If you are, of course.

    • I cannot figure out how to contact you through here either! I am going to try and sneakily iNclude my emAil address iN this Comment. that waY . you Can Zend me a message @gmail.com 🙂

  2. YES! These are exactly the types of things we learned last year. We got amazingly lucky this year with Enna, but #5 still is true regardless of how good your student is in your house.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s