Hello New Host Families!
I thought I’d write specifically to all new host families as some of you may be feeling quite nervous. This is absolutely normal. You may be wondering now or at some point next week what did I get myself into? You aren’t alone. These are normal feelings. Even experienced host parents have these feelings time and again.
You are doing an amazing thing by hosting these children. Some of you may have an easier hosting and others may be a bit more challenged. Some of you may see the fruits of your labor while others might never see the full impact of your gifts to these children. Whatever your path, know that there is a team of experienced P143 host families willing to chat with you. Do not hesitate to utilize the chaperones too—that’s what they are here for.
Here are a few reminders:
- -Go through your home once more and look for items of value or sentiment. Put those away. Resign yourself to the fact that something will get broken. These children are curious and remember that one way of learning is through touch. We’ve had something break every year and it has been an accident every time.
- -Now go through your home once more and look for items that could pose a danger to the child or may just be something that they shouldn’t have their hands on. For example just the other day my host kids emptied a travel sized aerosol bottle of hairspray in a room thinking it was perfume. They thought they were cleaning and making the room smell fresh. Don’t assume that if they don’t know what it is, they won’t touch it—they are kids. Put away any permanent markers; make sure all cleaning products are put well out of reach. Ensure that if you have any laundry pods that those too are put away.
Once the kids arrive:
- -If you have pets make sure you explain what can and can’t be fed to the animals. Some kids think nothing of giving a chicken bone to a dog because that might be acceptable in their country.
- -Physically walk them around your property and explain the boundaries. For those with younger kids, I’ll walk around the perimeter and say yes and take a step off my property or past the sidewalk and say no. Oftentimes children have fewer boundaries than American kids so please don’t take this as a sign of disrespect. Remember, they are coming from a foreign country with different rules.
- -Don’t expect physical affection at the airport. You’ve had months to get excited whereas the children have only recently learned who you are and where they are going. Plus they are going to be exhausted.
- -Don’t assume they know how to swim. We had one host child who was adamant that she could swim. She sank faster than a box of rocks.
- -Please inventory all items that the children come with as everything must return with them even if it gets broken or you buy a replacement. What I do is throw everything in a labeled trash bag and put it away in my closet. This way I’m not scurrying around the night before departure trying to find that rogue sock or missing trinket that was shoved in between the cushions of a couch.
- -Don’t forget to take pictures of even the little things. More important than material items is the time you spend with them. They will look through the picture books you send home for months to come. Take a photo of you reading them stories or tucking them in to bed at night. Take a photo of making a meal together. Don’t forget the simple things.
One other word of wisdom–when you have the option of a reaction choose to look for the positive. When my host daughter ran to me offering me my choice of a plate of freshly frosted and highly sprinkled cupcakes I chose laughter when I was cleaning them all off the floor after she had tripped and dropped the entire plate. Sure, inside I was thinking of the millions of little sprinkles that now covered my floor and the frosting that was crusting in between the boards but I chose gratefulness that someone cared to let me choose a cupcake. Even last night as my bare foot found a leftover sprinkle I chose to be thankful versus irritated.
At times this hosting might be challenging for you. I guarantee that in some respect you will grow as a person, couple or as a family. Remember, not to compare your hosting to someone’s highlight reel on Facebook. That photo another family posted of their smiling child might be the only good shot from the day. Remember that you don’t know the whole story.
Another thing I need to remind myself is that I have had eleven years to mold my bio child into the boy that he is today. I can not expect my host children to immediately catch up to his level of behavior. Parenting with grace and laughter is a good thing.
Be sure to take the time to look at your world through the eyes of the children. Share their joy in the new experiences. Look at the things they see as amazing that you might take for granted or overlook due to seeing it all the time. I know that all of you have family and extended family who love you greatly. Remind yourselves of your blessings. If you take the time to jump in a mud puddle or catch fireflies I think you’ll do just fine. Here are two links which might give you a few ideas for fun experiences to share with the kids.
I’m hopeful that this e-mail has been helpful instead of making you even more nervous. P143 interviews hundreds of children and we try to be very careful when selecting the children for the listing who we think would be best fitted for this program.
Remember, have fun. Enjoy this amazing experience and know that you are changing lives.
Project 143 Midwest Coordinator, Latvia