ALLEF has provided key information about our six month French and German exchange programmes for 8 – 11 year olds
It is important to keep in touch with ALLEF during both halves of the exchange; i.e. when your child is away in France or Germany, as well as when you have a French or German child staying with you. Regular communication with the other parents is vital to ensure that the experience is as positive and enjoyable for everyone concerned. Short, positive, encouraging emails, reporting their child’s progress, ideally with photos, are ideal. Always use your own language. If you receive emails in French or German, your exchange co-ordinator can help with translation. You will need to respect their role while your child is with them, and vice versa. Avoid making demands about how your child is treated, nor criticising their child directly to them. You can use co-ordinators for any negative messages or concerns.
Receiving a child into your family
Start as you mean to go on. The French or German child must learn to fit into your family and your way of life. Make sure you make it clear what is expected and any little family foibles or traits. You also need to ensure that the child knows how to use and look after everything in the house. Make sure the child is included in all family activities and those your own child takes part in during the first few weeks. He/she can make some of their own choices later in the exchange as to whether to attend everything or not. Allow them some privacy and time to rest. There will be a lot to take in. Keep talking to them, even though they won’t be able to understand everything you say in the first few weeks. Treat the exchange student as you would any of your other children. Don’t forget that your child and their exchange partner may need a break from each other occasionally too.
When your child is away
You need to be confident in the family he/she will be living with, so make sure you visit them to see the home, the area and the school. There will naturally be some differences between the two families but if you have any genuine concerns, before or during the exchange, talk to your ALLEF representative first. Homesickness in the early weeks is to be expected. The first few times your child talks to you over the phone they may be upset. In our experience, homesickness almost always disappears after the first month. Keep phone calls short, cheerful and positive. Try to ensure you call at different times of the week and times of day. We recommend that you do not visit your child during the exchange, nor expect your child to visit you, so that the short separation pain is not repeated. This applies to Christmas, birthdays and other family events and when your child comes home, it will take them a week or two to settle back in to their normal routine, including speaking English.
Like everything worthwhile and rewarding, an ALLEF exchange takes a lot of hard work and commitment from all concerned. Receiving a child for 6 months is likely to be harder than having your own child away for 6 months. If problems do occur in either half of the exchange, it does not mean it is a failure. Most problems can be overcome and the sooner you tell us about them, no matter how small, the better.
Find out more by contacting us today.