Communicating Healthy Habits To Students During Cold and Flu Season | Dear Angela

Dear Angela,

I have some general concerns about keeping my student and our family healthy during the cold and flu season. With the recent coronavirus situation, I want to maintain a healthy environment in our home as well as help my student to adopt hygienic habits now so she will be safe and healthy when she is on her own for college.

Thank you for your help!

– All about Health and Hygiene Host Mom

Dear “All about Health and Hygiene Host Mom”,

Thank you for reaching out during this important time for attending to healthy habits. In a recent email communication about the coronavirus to host families and schools, Cambridge Network shared that it is essential to follow the general guidelines for health and wellness to keep families safe during the cold and flu season.

Many of our SDMs have promoted healthy habits with students during recent weekly check-ins by sharing hand sanitizer, healthy snacks, and conversations about preventing illness. Here are some general recommendations from the CDC website and WHO Coronavirus websites to remember:

  • Take preventative measures to stop the spread of germs
    • Avoid contact with people that may be sick
    • Maintain regular hand washing (with soap and water for at least 20 seconds)
    • Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
    • Try not to share eating or drinking utensils
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
  • Get enough sleep and exercise
  • Eat healthy foods and thoroughly cook meat and eggs
  • Get the flu vaccine

General hygiene habits about showering are also crucial to discuss openly with your student for a happy home. Showering habits vary by home and culture, so this an excellent conservation to have early on so that everyone is on the same page. Have an open discussion with your student about preferenced for showering, including discussion about their routine in their home country and a suggestion to shower daily. Next, talk about your family’s shower schedule and incorporate your student’s wishes into your family’s routine. This will ease tension with shared facilities, open the dialogue on student/family expectations, and potentially offer a new perspective on your family customs.

Laundry is another big topic. Routines around laundry also vary across families and cultures. Before talking to your student, understand your own home’s practices and any underlying expectations that may not have been outlined or verbalized for a student. If you want to do your student’s laundry, then set a laundry schedule. If you expect your own children as well as your international student to do their own laundry, make sure you walk them through the steps of using the machines/soap/laundry room several times as well as post a step-by-step guide for using the machines. Consider creating a laundry schedule if you have multiple people doing laundry in the home or expectations on how many times/week students are allowed to use the machines. Many families around the world have smaller washing machines than in the U.S. and do their laundry multiple times a week in much smaller loads, while we know some host families expect students to do their laundry at a set time just once a week.

It’s also important to outline and discuss your family’s requirement for room cleaning and remind students to not leave food items in the room. Candy wrappers, empty soft drink bottles, and fruit peels can create an unhealthy environment in the room. Many students may have had cleaning help when living at home, and it may be necessary for you to clearly outline the expectations in your home and support the student as your routines become the student’s habit.

Finally, please remember that most students want to be treated the same as other children in the home and their domestic peers. Talking with your student directly and creating an open atmosphere for dialogue about healthy habits and hygiene will support the development of the host-student relationship. As always, please reach out to your local SDM to discuss any challenges.

Best wishes for a healthy end of the winter season!


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