One Week In… Parenting Teenage International Students

posted by Andrea | 09/5/2011

It’s been a week since our International Students arrived… and what a week it was!!

I’m SO appreciative of all the emails, phone calls, Facebook messages, blog comments, and “tweets” that you’ve sent my way over the past week. I’ve put many of your tips into practice already and soaked up every encouraging word! Thank-you THANK-YOU!!!

About the Girls:

We picked Nancy up from the airport on Monday evening {see photo above}. She is 17 years old, from South Korea, and will be a Junior at Calvin Christian High School.

Sarah, a 15 year old girl from Vietnam, will be a Sophomore at Calvin Christian. She actually arrived several days before Nancy but stayed with her cousins (who live about 15 minutes from us) for a few days before moving into our house!

Now that they are both settled in, I can honestly say that most of the things I was worried about are not even an issue! 

:: Language

Dave and I were worried that we wouldn’t be able to communicate, but both Nancy and Sarah can understand everything we say; and for the most part, can communicate what they are trying to say as well. Nancy is a couple years older and has had more English training, so her grammar and pronunciation is actually quite good.

I’m certain that they will both be very shy and quiet the first few days of school, but once people start talking to them, they open up and can easily communicate. Praise the Lord!


I was REALLY nervous about the whole food aspect because even though I enjoy cooking and would consider myself a decent cook, I know nothing about Korean or Vietnamese foods — so I was hoping and praying they would like what I made!

We were told to make all the foods we would normally eat at first so they could get a chance to try things and figure out what they did and didn’t like. So, with the exception of Tuesday morning when I let them both eat Ramen Noodles for breakfast 🙂 here are some of the foods they have tried:

  • Cereal — seems to be a big hit
  • Lots of fruit
  • Oven fried chicken with mashed potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower — they said it was good
  • Pizza
  • Spaghetti with salad and garlic bread — I think they really like this one
  • Vegetable beef soup with cheese tortellini and fresh bread — this was a big hit
  • Pancakes and eggs
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Hamburgers and hot dogs
  • Corn on the cob
  • Chips — they especially like sour cream and cheddar
  • Fudge brownies — BIG hit!
  • Monster Cookies
  • Granola bars
  • Ice-cream
  • Peach Crisp
  • Raspberry lemonade
  • Apple Juice

I’m pretty sure you can’t get more “American” than that menu!!

And even though they eat extremely small portions {both girls weigh less than 100 lbs} they have tried everything and I think they liked most of it! What a relief! 

:: Bedroom and Bathroom Situation

I was definitely more worried about this than Dave was, but I just wanted them both to like their rooms and have enough “private” space so they could relax and study. So, both girls have their own, good-size bedroom {which they seem to like} and they share a large bathroom and den area. Things are going very well and they already seem to have coordinated their bathroom routines!

Here are a few pictures of their space:

Den: there’s a TV in that cabinet.

Nancy’s Bedroom:

Sarah’s Bedroom:

Upstairs Bathroom:

We also have a very large walk-in storage closet upstairs so they are storing some seasonal clothing and luggage in there.

We were thankfully “warned” that their person hygiene routines would be quite a bit different than ours so I provided each girl with an array of toiletries and explained what each one was for. We also suggested that they each take a shower every day or every other day, and said they had to brush their teeth before school and before bed.

They are both very neat and tidy so we’ve had no problem with messy rooms, messy bathroom, etc. They make their beds every day, hang up their wet towels, put their dishes in the sink, and keep their clothes folded or hung up!

:: Schedules and Routines

Dave and I typed out a week-day and weekend schedule for the girls so they would know “what to expect” — and then we went over it with them on Saturday evening.

We discussed everything from what time they would leave for school and what they should wear to what time we will eat dinner and when they should go to bed. We also explained how the weekends would be much different than the week days {they go to school 6-7 days a week in their home countries} and said they were more than willing to have friends over or go to friend’s homes.

We made it VERY clear that they could come to use with any concerns they had or if they needed anything. 

Over all, things are going extremely well and Dave and I are SO thankful! School starts tomorrow and I’m sure that will bring a whole new set of challenges, but at least we have one week under out belts!

Ok, so all you parent’s of teenagers — what are your best parenting tips?


Filed under: FamilyParenting

Leave a comment


  1. Veronica


    How are they doing? You haven’t mentioned the international students in a while; are you still hosting?


  2. Brenda @ a farmgirl's dabbles


    Wow, you are busy. And NOT huge! Cute as can be. Your baby’s arrival is getting so close – yay!


  3. Carrie


    My piece of advice is to turn the radio off in the car. With the radio off there are no distractions. My daughter would always chat when we were driving. I heard more about her life in the car than anywhere else.


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Carrie,
    Believe it or not, I actually NEVER have the radio on when I drive — and I do a lot of driving! I don’t know why, but I just prefer quiet to random songs on the radio playing over and over again.


  4. Kathryn


    I like that you wrote up schedules and routines for the girls. When the school schedule gets busier and people getted stressed, it is calming to know that there is a basic framework to one’s day. And, I’ll second KimH’s advice to really listen.

    As the mother of three girls (all out of the house), one piece of advice I will give you is to treat the girls as individuals. Don’t expect them to do the same thing/be the same person. Give them space to develop into their own person. I know that life will become very busy with a new baby, but maybe you can plan something to do with each girl individually. Even something as simple as having a cup of tea together in the afternoon. It is so easy to “herd” our children and it takes some extra effort to give them individual attention. But it is so worth it as you watch them bloom into lovely young women.

    You have been given a precious gift caring for these girls. I hope that it is a special and blessed time for all of you.


  5. Maria


    You’re looking so pretty, Andrea! Hard to believe the due date is less than 9 weeks away. I mean, that’s still quite awhile, but 31 sounds awfully close to 40!

    Hope those final weeks go well.


  6. Ann


    Do you have a place near where you cook dinner that they can just “be” or do homework? It’s amazing how much conversation can come out when you are making dinner and they are sitting at the counter snitching bits or doing homework.


    Andrea Reply:

    This is a great tip Ann!! Yes, our kitchen and dinning room are very open and we have a kitchen island that they could work at too. Maybe we’ll have a “rule” that before dinner, they have to be downstairs, and then after dinner they can be in their rooms doing homework, reading, chatting with friends, etc.


    Kari Reply:

    Our daughter is only 13 months old, but I like the sound of this rule! Now I just need to remember this in 13 years or so.


  7. KimH


    You look totally adorable.. I looked like a sick beached whale.. lol.. Lucky you! 😀

    After raising 5 kids, 4 girls & 1 boy, I’d say my biggest piece of advice is to REALLY listen.. Often they will talk about something when in reality it is something completely different that is the true underlying issue. But again, thats with American teens. While they are teens, their cultures are completely different and the way they see things may be different too..
    Beyond listening, trust yourself and believe that God will lead you to do the best for them.
    Cant ask for better than that. 😉


  8. JoDi


    That’s such a great update! It’s nice to hear things are going well. Do their familes know about your blog? I was thinking it would must be pretty exciting for them to get to “know” the family their daughters are staying with a little better through the pages of your blog if you told them about it. That’s an unusual opportunity!


    Andrea Reply:

    JoDi, neither of their parents can speak or read any English, so even if they did know about my blog, they wouldn’t be able to read it! However, the girls already took lots of pictures {of our house, our yard, us, etc.} and have been emailing them to their parents. It would be cool if they could read the blog, though!


  9. Tammy


    Sounds like the first week ANY kid would want to be in your house! Glad it’s going well. My only advice (as the mom of a teen daughter) is be prepared that sometimes emotions and hormones at that age override all reason…try to learn the difference between that and real issues when there are difficult days.


    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, Tammy — I grew up with all sisters so I know about those emotions very well! Right now the girls are getting along better than we could have ever expected. However, I’m just waiting for that first big fight or the first major issue at school… Thanks for the advice!


  10. cassie


    I am soooo glad everything is working out great for ya’ll. It looks like the girls rooms and den area are perfect!! And your baby bump is adorable!!