A host family is a family consisting of at least a single parent and one child under the age of 18 that invites an au pair (international visitor) to stay with them for a period not exceeding one year, but may be extended to permit a maximum stay of two years. Host families play an important role in successful guardianship. They are the ‘home away from home’ for your child while they study in the UK.
The au pair lives with other members of the family on equal terms; the host family caters for the visitor in terms food, accommodation and a salary while the au pair cares for other children in the family and performs simple house chores. Hosting an international visitor as an au pair is considered cultural exchange program and should not be viewed as an employment contract.
Identifying the perfect host family for your child
If you are looking to send your child to study in the UK, it is important that you take time to find the right host family for the child; after all, the host family is going to play an important role in the home stay student’s academic and social life in the UK.
Here are some pointers on how a good host family looks like;
- Behave like a normal family- This may seem obvious, but you really want your child to be part of a family that acts like a normal family. The host family must be one that understands the value of family time, meaning they take meals together and not separately. They engage in conversations frequently and even though they may not agree with each other, they definitely listen to one another.
- Know that safety and security come first- An ideal good host family understands that it is their responsibility to keep the visitor they are hosting safe and take appropriate measures to do just that. They may set curfews to make sure the student doesn’t stay out late, give advice on safety in the local area like avoiding certain areas in the town and checks in with the visitor’s parent(s) on the wellbeing of the child.
- Include the student in family life- A good host family considers the home stay student as part of the family. They make him or her feel like one of them by engaging them in conversations during family mealtime and get-togethers. An ideal host family doesn’t view their responsibilities to the visitor as a ‘job’ that they are being paid to do. Instead, they see the whole thing as a mutually beneficial cultural exchange program, offering them opportunity to learn a thing or two about the visitor’s culture and also give the visitor an equal chance of experiencing British hospitality while pursuing their educational goals.
- Know when not to include the home stay student- Now, this may seem counter-intuitive but it actually isn’t. A good host family knows when to involve the home stay student and when not to. No family is perfect, all families have their good days and bad days, however it is important to protect the home stay student from these ‘bad days’. Good host families avoid arguing in the presence of the home stay student. They also don’t burden their home stay student with things like compulsory visits to the home for the elderly to see a critically ill relative. These host families understand that emotionally overwhelming the home stay student can negatively affect their academic performance and generally undermine their UK experience.