In our last post, we shared information about allowing your student some space to adjust to their host family, new rules, and to develop a support structure in their new community. But we also know there will be moments that you may be concerned about your child and want to know what to do.
YFU has a very specific support structure which has been refined over the last 60 years, particularly in light of our current era of immediate and constant communication. Your child’s participation at local and national pre-departure orientations will help them understand the value in tapping into the support system in the way that is designed to be used. Of course sometimes it may feel difficult to ask for help or admit that things are not going as well as imagined. Encourage your child, and we encourage you, to rely on YFU’s dedicated support team during the exchange experience.
SCENERIOS - How would you respond?
Your child arrives in the host country and after a few days you see posts on Facebook about how small the town is, that there’s nothing to do, the host family is too busy for them, or your child can’t imagine living there for whole a year. What do you do?
Call your SSM to request that someone check in with your child and help as needed. If your child contacts you directly, advise them talk to their YFU representative in the host country.
Late one night, your child calls crying about how they don’t have any friends, school is really hard, they never understand anything and this was so much tougher than they thought it would be. What do you do?
When this happens, often the student gets off the phone feeling much better for having shared, but you are left worrying. While on the phone, suggest that your child talk with the host family or YFU representative, who is always available to help in exactly these types of situations.
A grandparent passes away unexpectedly and you know your child will be upset. What do you do?
Please call your SSM so that YFU in the host country can make sure your child has someone to talk to and to comfort them right after they receive the news from you.
After feeling as though your child has done pretty well for the first few months, you notice s/he is too active on social media sites and is often wanting to Skype with you and you hear from your other children about how often they are chatting online or texting. What do you do?
If this goes on for more than a couple of weeks, call your SSM to request that someone check in with your child and help as needed. S/he is most likely going through culture shock. If your child contacts you directly, suggest they talk to their YFU representative about starting some activities to get involved with school and the community.
YFU SUPPORT NETWORK
Once your child gets on the plane, your first point of contact for concerns is your Support Services Manager (SSM): Alisha Whitelock at firstname.lastname@example.org ; 303-270-0068 x7246.
Your child will be provided with an in-country area representative (who will be in contact with your child throughout the semester or year) and the host country YFU office contact information. It is important to encourage your child to reach out to someone in the host country for support.
Teens tend to ask for a change of host family before attempting to work through the challenging situations, or when things aren’t as perfect as they had hoped. A change of host family is, although not impossible, not an easy fix to common exchange problems. YFU staff and volunteers in each country are available to help you and your child with all challenges – big or small. It is important to trust them and their assessment of situations while helping your child recognize cultural misunderstanding, host sibling rivalries, or what have you. Generally, there are many conversations between the student, host family and Area Representatives in an effort to problem-solve before deciding that a change of host family is in fact the best outcome.
After many years of experience, we have found that our support is effective when used. Our advise to you and your child is -- Don’t try to solve problems on your own or wait until a problem has seemingly spun out of control. YFU staff and volunteers are trained to support you and THEY WANT TO HELP!