They’re HERE!!! (Now what?!)
Your student has been planning this exchange for months (if not years!) and NOW, at long last, it has finally arrived! And while some students will “take off running” with friends and activities, most will need a little help finding their bearings.
Here are some simple, practical ways you can help them feel engaged and equipped:
#1 – Make a meal together -and clean up together, too!
Side-by-side activities are often the best way to build a real relationship, and even an uncomplicated 30 minutes in the kitchen together can help build a family bond. Ask your student to peel potatoes while you chat about your days. Include him/her in the conversation but also allow them to just listen in and be one of the gang. In the same way, inviting the student to help you clear the table or rinse the dishes sends a very clear message: “You belong here! You’re not a guest, you’re a member of the family.”
#2 – Take a walk around your neighborhood.
This may seem incredibly mundane, but remember: they’re new here! They’re probably thrilled to see life through your eyes! This is another simple side-by-side activity that will help solidify that bond.
#3 – Include your student in whatever you’re already doing!
Does that sound too simple? Perhaps it is, but you’d be surprised how powerful it can be! When you include your student in your day-to-day plans (as much as possible), you open up an entire world of potential friends and experiences! Churches, youth groups, 4-H clubs, sports leagues, book clubs, volunteer organizations – these are all wonderful places for a student to “plug in” and meet friends.
#4 – Go to the Guidance Counselor!
One of the BEST ways for students to settle in and avoid culture shock is to meet friends, but most students don’t automatically know what that looks like. Joining a club, sport, or other school activity is a great way to make new friends, and the guidance counselor can help! Help your student arrange a meeting with the guidance counselor, then choose 1-2 activities that they can try initially. (And here’s a TIP: if after school transportation is an issue for your family, help your student find activities that meet during the school day: choir, newspaper, yearbook, photography, etc.)
#5 – Make a Bucket List – TOGETHER.
What experiences would you like to share? What would your student most like to try before leaving America? Make a list of your plans, and then get them on the calendar! Even seemingly small or simple plans can be a constant source of encouragement: there is always something to look forward to!