This tip sheet provides some “food for thought” for those host families who do not have experience parenting adolescents. Please refer to the articles that follow this section concerning teen brain development, general characteristics, and communication. The sections on House Rules, Computer Usage and Social Life should also be carefully reviewed.
Host families without teenagers are advised to set and communicate guidelines with their hosted participant at the beginning of the experience. Host families should establish what is comfortable for them according to their own family norms and AFS policies. Including the hosted participant in this process will promote further understanding and accountability in the host parent-hosted participant relationship. The Participant and Host Family Questionnaire is an excellent tool to assist you in this process.
Despite your best efforts, you and your hosted participant may occasionally experience misunderstandings. We encourage you to communicate with your hosted participant about such incidents and to view them as opportunities for growth in interpersonal and intercultural understanding.
The following subject areas are frequently monitored by host families:
Your city or town may have ordinances or laws in regard to curfews which should be taken into consideration when establishing a curfew with your hosted participant.
Riding with Teen Drivers and Passenger Safety
Understand and communicate to your hosted participant the laws that other teens must adhere to according to their junior licensing for driving. This may vary from state to state, but often newly licensed students cannot transport passengers, or passengers under a certain age, for several months.
If possible, position the family computer in a communal area of the house, such as the family room or other high traffic location, to facilitate supervision. However, please respect participants’ wishes should they request to have a private online conversation with their parents back home. Social media and networking websites are standard tools for teenagers to connect with their peers.
Consider this when determining an appropriate amount of time for internet use with your hosted participant. Internet usage can be regulated through software that allows specified daily use via a password system.
Hosted participants should be informed that high schools often have rules regarding internet use at school, as well. Make sure that your hosted participant knows that it is illegal to download music, movies, and other copyrighted materials from the internet, and that legal action may be taken against them, as well as you, if the materials are downloaded onto your family’s computer or via your family’s internet service provider.
The website OnGuard Online (www.onguardonline.gov) has extremely helpful resources for keeping everyone safe online. There are also games and exercises to test users’ knowledge of the various challenges they may encounter while surfing the web, including spam and phishing scams, cyber bullying, and social networking safety.
The use of cell phones to efficiently coordinate rides, check-in with parents after school, and stay in touch with friends is now common for children and teenagers. It has also become standard for U.S. high schools to have strict policies regarding cell phone use during school hours.
Social media use and text messaging should be discussed with hosted participants. Texting can be used to instantly communicate quickly and easily. However, excessive usage and staying constantly connected to the home country is NOT advised. Cell phones are a practical tool for communication but are often a complicated tool to regulate with participants. For more information, please refer to the section on Electronic Communication and Internet Use.
Some teens will sleep 10 or more hours if you let them and they tend to stay up and sleep in late. If this is not an option in your household, explain why and make sure that your hosted participant has access to an alarm clock.
Cultural norms about portions sizes, frequency/size of meals, and mealtime traditions vary widely across cultures and families. Please talk with your hosted participant to learn more about what the norm is for them. Be sure to explain what your family’s mealtime norms are as well. Many teenagers, especially boys, eat a lot. However, it’s also important to understand that hosted participants may eat more or less than you expect, or more or less often than your family usually does.
If you are casual about snacking, be sure to communicate to your hosted participant which foods qualify as “snacks,”( i.e. cereal, fruit, or toast) and which food you are keeping or saving for meals and/or cooking. What is considered to be a “snack” varies across countries/cultures as well as families and individuals.
As always, feel free to contact your liaison for assistance in understanding how to help integrate your hosted participant into your family. You may also find it helpful to consult with other AFS Host Families in your area.