European families

We have had the privilege to welcome teenagers from Germany and France into our home over the past 6 years. Their stays have been from 3 weeks to one school year and one boy from France has visited twice. If you would ask each of them their first impression of the US, they would comment on the “immensity” of everything; the houses, yards, cars, food portions, our family of five children. My first impression of each of the teens (ages 13-16 when they arrived) was their maturity and independence. Few of my own children would have been comfortable visiting a foreign country at that age and trying to speak the language. All of the students had studied the English language since elementary school and were able to follow most conversations. Discussing their impressions of American children offered some insight into how European parenting differs from American parenting.
1. European parents have less access to personal cars (each family usually has only car) so the children are taught how to use public transportation at a young age. Our students were amazed at the amount of “driving” that we do for our kids and the lack of public transportation. They also used bikes and walking much more frequently than American kids.
2. The short length of the school day was frequently mentioned. European schools have no extra-curricular activities, either sports or music. School days don’t usually finish until 4 pm or later and club activities meet in the evening or weekends. Because of the expense, students usually are involved in only 1-2 clubs.
3. Our family attends church most Sundays and our children participate in the church youth group on Wednesday night each week. Only one of our students regularly attended church in France, the rest only on Christmas. They were surprised with the religiosity of Americans – both in church attendance and outward signs, such as cross jewelry and logos on tshirts. They had a much more worldly view of religion, with a class in high school reviewing World Religion, and ability to have open discussions about how religion has hurt societies.
4. Sex education and contraception was freely discussed in the schools and at home at an early age. Teenage pregnancy was rare from their experience, although teens became sexually active at about the same time as most American kids.
5. Although each of our students was involved in a club activity outside of school, their parents rarely attended a game or performance.
6. All of the students had spent extended time away from home, either on vacation or a school trip, without their parents.
Reflecting back on their stays, I think it was a wonderful opportunity for us to learn from them and their families to learn that the US is not exactly as described. I have tried to drive less, encourage (or demand!) that my kids use their own bikes/legs more, discuss religion from a world view, put limits on outside activities, and occasionally miss a game or music performance. I hope that our students have seen the benefit of school sports/music, appreciated weekly church youth group and the discussions, and appreciated the pictures that I have taken when attending their track meet or orchestra performance. This summer we were able to visit 2 of our students and visit with their parents. More on this trip next blog. Jona (Germany)[/caption]

Paul (France) in stripped shirt

Paul (France) in stripped shirt

Jona (Germany)

Jona (Germany)

Pierre (France) on right

Pierre (France) on right

Nora (Germany)

Nora (Germany)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s