This post is sponsored by Responsibility.org. Thank you for supporting my work.
As many of you know, for the last two years in a row, we’ve hosted teenage exchange students in our home. While it has been a terrific experience for us, taking on someone else’s child whom you didn’t have the ability to raise can be a bit challenging.
Thankfully, all of our exchange students (we’ve hosted for five years) have been incredible. They’ve taken the roles of big brothers or big sisters to our kids and become a part of our family.
When you take on someone else’s child in your home for a year, you are not only responsible for their food, shelter, and education. The most important thing, for me as a parent, is their safety and well-being during their year abroad.
Taking them in in your home as one of your kids also means setting ground rules and having the type of conversations you would have with your kids at their age.
One of the difficult conversations we always have is about the topic of alcohol. You guys already know I am very open with my kids about the subject and it’s not something I’m afraid to discuss. While it seems like a normal topic, it can be awkward with someone else’s child.
I’ve always started the conversation with the curfew talk and how legally they have to be home before 11pm. I also reassure them that I know they will be at friend’s houses and parties and that I am available to pick them up, two houses down, if necessary.
I believe that the more we talk with our kids about alcohol, the more trust they will have with us when faced with uncomfortable situations. Of course, I try to make it clear that I am not there to judge just to make sure she is safe. I’m committed to making sure our household feels comfortable with open communication.
Establishing house rules with Laura (she’s 16) has made me more comfortable about talking to my kids in the future. Something I’ve learned is that every exchange student we’ve had has been different. Jaime, our exchange student from last year, was very easy going and he’d hang out around the house on any given night. With Laura, she is constantly at a friend’s house after school, then someone else’s, and finally sleeps over at another friend’s with her group of girlfriends often.
Having Laura around has taught us the importance of having rules and being very clear with expectations and being consistent with our parental behavior. This is crucial because I know my younger kids are observing what she can and can’t do and they will eventually, follow suit.
It’s important to me that my kids observe that I am consistent with Laura and with them so that they know what to expect when they are a little older. Talking to our kids early about alcohol is working to protect them against drunk driving and underage drinking; most importantly, parents are the leading influence in a child’s decision to drink – or not to drink.
Spreading the word about the importance of talking to our kids is why I’ve partnered with Responsibility.org for the last two years. I hope as parents we can feel that our kids are safe when they are away from home and that they will feel comfortable speaking with us about any sticky situation they might encounter.
What kinds of conversations do you have with your older kids so they understand their impact on the younger ones?