First contact with your student
So you contacted your local representitive, picked your student, now the waiting begins for your first contact! This can be a very anxious time for you! I promise your Student is just as anxious! They have been waiting possibly months for someone to pick them from a huge list of students. In most programs you pick the student, they do not pick you. So you can imagine what is going on in their minds.
A million questions
They will have now been informed that a family has chosen them, and will recieve information about you. Now not everytime will they recieve a lot of information at first. So when they first contact you they might have a MILLION questions. Do your best to answer them all. Even if you are thinking you answered them all before. Their phone call telling them they have been picked could have beat their paperwork on you.
They will be the ones to contact you first and it will most likely be in the form of an email. This is a great way, as it allows for both of you to take time to ask questions and to answer the best way possible. Feel free to ask questions about them; their likes, dislikes. Ask them about their families. This is also a great chance to ask what they hope to do while they are in your home. This will give you a chance to work on making that happen before they get there. Now, this is not saying you HAVE to do everything they want to do. But it would be neat if they could accomplish a few things they really hoped to do while sharing their time in your home. It could be as simple as trying a new sport, to going on a trip. You would be suprised how many have never gone camping!
You do want to avoid over talking in the first email. It will be hard. You are excited, and have a million things to ask and talk about. But you will most likely have a couple of months of emails ahead of you for all of this. Your first email is NOT the time to start talking about your house rules and expectations of your student. The last thing any teenager wants is to right away get a lecture. You will often find after a couple of emails they will ask you what your rules are. I find sometimes even if the parents contact you as well to share this with both the student and parents. Building a relationship with their natural parents can prove to be one of your best advantages.
Contact with their family
You might get an email from the parents of the student. This could be a little nerve racking. After all, you will have full responsibility of their child for several months. So they will be nervous and curious to find out about the family who will be in care of their child. I can not stress enough the importance of trying to build a strong relationship here. Afterall who knows your student better? You can bounce questions off of them, and ask their oppinion on your rules, expectations and of course if there is a situation, you could ask how they would handle it. I have found having a great relationship with the natural family to be my Ace in the hole! Your student tends to be a tad more on their guard and best behavior when they know you and their natural parents are a team. Then they can not play you against eachother. After all they are teenagers, and no teenager will give you a perfect year.
Your time emailing your student will be the foundation of your relationship. This is your chance to share information about where they will be living for the next several months. Share with them some interesting facts, websites and photos of where you live. Share photos of your family. They love pictures showing you doing things that you all enjoy doing together as a family.
You are now in the home stretch to your student arriving, all of you getting more and more excited as each day goes by! But remember your student will also have some anxiety as they get closer to leaving for your home. After all they are leaving their home and familes for a unknown place. So be supportive and do not be suprised if the emails from them tend to slow down as it gets closer to them heading to your home. They will be packing and spending those last few moments with their family and friends. But do not fear they will come off that plane all smiles and so excited to begin their new adventure!
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