One of the questions we've been getting most frequently from host parents over the last couple weeks (for reasons obvious to all), is how to make the relationship with a summer au pair a success.
So, we've decided to write our Top Tips for host families welcoming a summer au pair to their family.
The idea of letting the children and the au pair get to know each other gently, over a period of 2 or 3 weeks, simply does not work when the au pair is only staying with you one month. You need to be able to hit the ground running, which means preparing ahead of time.
If your children are young and/or have never had an au pair before, tell them about the young man or woman who will be joining your family over the summer: his/her name, where they will be staying, but also where they come from, what they like doing, etc.
Rachel loves dinosaurs? Barny hates broccoli? Take the time to tell the au pair about your children ahead of his/her arrival, so they not have to discover everything once they are here.
- Plan, plan, plan
We're big fans of planning in general, but it is never more important than when welcoming a summer au pair. Summer au pairs and children generally spend a lot of time together, as kids do not have school during those months.
Don't expect your au pair to magically know how to relate to and entertain your children. Plan a few activities for them to do together that you know your kids will enjoy (a trip to the natural history museum? A morning out swimming? An afternoon at the cinema?), and then let the au pair and the children choose activities together for the following week (do double-check to make sure they're appropriate, if your children are anything like ours, they might decide a field trip to the candy store to be a great idea).
The idea is not to fill every waking moment with things but, rather, to support them as they get to know each other. Remember, you want the children and the au pair to communicate in the au pair's native language as much as possible, and getting them to speak about day to day activities, about what they are seeing and doing, is one of the best ways to accomplish this.
- Manage your expectations
We've all heard touching stories from friends and family of loving, lasting relationships between host families and au pairs, but keep in mind most of those did not come about in a matter of weeks. Your children will, most likely, not come to develop sibling-like relationships with your summer au pair, and that's actually okay. What could, and hopefully will happen, is that they have fun together, learn from each other, and develop a friendship.
- Safety first
Last but not least, make sure your au pair has all important contact numbers (yours, but also local emergency numbers), in case he/she ever needs them. Give them clear guidelines for where they can and cannot go with the chidren, and remember they won't know the city, so if there are any areas rife with pickpockets, or for them to avoid in general, let them know!
Hosting a summer au pair can be a wonderful experience. If you've hosted a summer au pair in the past, we'd love to hear from you on what worked best for you.