As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. and a great au pair relationship is no exception. Whether an au pair has been with a host family for a few months, six months, or even a year, the day will come, usually between one and two months before her departure, when she will need to start planning the next step in her journey.
Even if the au pair and the host family have already discussed dates together in the past, the moment she books her return flight is perhaps the inflection point, when her departure becomes real and the countdown starts.
Before going into departure logistics, we recommend taking a minute to acknowledge that it is probably going to be hard. For the host family, it may seem a little bit like saying goodbye to a family member. For the au pair, this goodbye marks a big transition, the start of the next phase in her life.
The key focus for both parties will probably be to make the transition as easy as possible for the children, who are the least likely to understand, perhaps, particularly if they have not been through this kind of goodbye before.
There are different philosophies here. Some people prefer not to say anything until the suitcase is by the door. Our past experience has made us firm believers in being as upfront as possible about the au pair's departure. Even if the child in question does not quite grasp the concept of time, it is useful for the child to get used to the idea that the au pair is going to leave at some point, and to let her express her feelings about it.
Where words are not enough, here are some ways in which both the au pair and the host parents can help a young child come to terms with the au pair's departure:
- Work on a surprise craft project (small, preferably, unless you're willing to mail it) that the au pair can take home with her.
- Print a picture of the au pair and the family and have two copies framed, one for the au pair and one for the child.
- Talk together about where the au pair is going next. Is she staying on in Spain? Will she be travelling? Going back home with her family? Is she going on to university? What is she going to study?
- Plan and throw a good bye party, including everybody's favorite foods, cake, music...
- Planning to keep in touch can also make it easier to say goodbye. Keep in touch (gently, not obsessively), as you never know when you might have the chance to meet up again.
We're wishing all our au pairs and host families currently planning their goodbye all the best. Remember, if saying goodbye is difficult, that means you did a lot of things right while you were together!