OUR FAMILY HAS YOUNG KIDS … WE JUST AREN’T READY TO HOST YET

One of the most common misconceptions we hear from potential host parents is “we’re not ready to host this year – we still have such young children.” Many families think they have to be empty nesters or wait until their kids become teenagers in order to be great hosts, but that could not be further from the truth. ETC encourages families of all shapes and sizes to host, especially those with young kids! While hosting an exchange student with young children can require more coordination, the benefits for your family far outweigh any extra effort that hosting may present. Here are five reasons why you should host while your kids are young:

1. Young kids love unconditionally and have no social barriers in showing awe, love, or appreciation for teenagers.

It’s no secret that younger kids IDOLIZE older children, and the same goes for exchange students. Hosting is a great way to give your kids an older sibling and create new experiences for them. Young children who are the oldest of their siblings tend to get the most delight from having an exchange big brother or sister because it is an incredibly unique experience for them and allows them to temporarily take on the role of a younger sibling. Teenagers and adults may find it harder to connect right away to exchange students because they are typically more reserved and commonly struggle with social expectations. Little kids, however, hold no prejudices or judgment and so they express their love much more freely and bring such joy to our exchange students.

2. In return, exchange students find it easier to show affection and love towards a younger sibling

Exchange students have embarked on a huge physical and personal journey. So, when they arrive in the U.S., they are often feeling unsure and shy. Young kids have a special talent for creating relationships with older children, which can help to alleviate some stress the student may be feeling about adjusting to your home. Children are naturally curious, so they are often full of questions for their new big brother or sister, and it may even inspire a few of your own. We consider high schoolers to be on the brink of adulthood, but they are still children and often demonstrate this with an abundance of spirited, playful energy. Watching your children play and connect with their exchange big brother or sister will help you bond more quickly with them, too!

3. Exchange students are often “only children” who would love to have the experience of having a sibling or they come from a big family and are really missing their siblings back home.

Many exchange students are attracted to the idea of living abroad because they come from families where they are only children and they are eager to discover what it would be like to live with an American family, full of pets and kids. Other students come from big families and would love the comfort of having other children around. While they aren’t meant to be your children’s babysitters, exchange students are often more than happy to entertain the kids when mom or dad need a quick shower or to cook dinner. They are not meant to be guests in your home and are truly supposed to become part of your family. Because they are expected to do chores and contribute to some household duties, parents of young children are often surprised at how having an exchange student can actually help ease certain burdens that come with caring for young kids. Also, the student often sets a great example for younger children on how to best help out their parents.

4. Busy, young families give exchange students a better understanding of what life is like in America.

Families with young kids often feel like they won’t be able to give the exchange student the time and attention they deserve. However, busy families with little children are typically the best example of what an American family looks like. They are involved in their communities and focused on teaching their children about the local culture and how their society works. Exchange students want the full American cultural experience while they are in the U.S., so they are often experiencing the world around them with fresh eyes, much like a child. Being hosted by a young family gives our exchange students more opportunities to learn about what life is truly like in America for so many people, as well as a greater understanding of cultural differences.

5. Families with young children understandably have a harder time traveling, so hosting an exchange student is a beautiful way to bring another culture into your home and to teach your kids more about the world.

Families with little ones are far less likely to travel, whether it be because of time commitments, financial reasons, or the struggle of chasing toddlers through the airport. However, young children can gain so much knowledge and understanding when exposed to a culture different from their own. Children who are exposed to travel and people of different races, cultures, and beliefs, are much more likely to become empathetic and compassionate adults. They also create lasting memories with their exchange siblings that they will cherish for years to come. Welcoming a fellow citizen of our world into your home and creating bonds with them is a success for your family, the exchange student, and international goodwill. And when your family is ready to travel, you will have an honorary family member to go stay with!

It’s completely reasonable to feel hesitant about hosting an exchange student when you have young children, but hopefully, the reasons listed above will encourage you to host and see how an exchange teenager can be the perfect fit to your young, busy, and thriving family. The benefits of hosting a student while your children are young can bring both your family and the student so much joy, and a greater appreciation for both your cultures.

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