You may have heard me tell my Host Families and Au Pairs to make their expectations clear from the beginning. This can help us know what the other person wants or expects from the relationship. This can avoid communication issues or surprises when it comes to your new living situation. I cannot express enough how important it is to let the other party know what it is you expect to both bring and take away from this cultural childcare experience.
I just read a great blog about what happens when the “new smell” of this experience goes away. A new Host Mom, Cyndi, tells about her expectations of her new au pair and the budding relationship. It is brave of Cyndi to share her hopes and fears with fellow-blogger, Summer Blackhurst. I have been sharing some au pair experiences, but it is great to hear the other side of it, too.
The same can hold true for the children. If you have hosted an au pair before, think about how your children responded. Did they automatically respect the new au pair’s authority, did the Host Parents need to facilitate that relationship, or did the au pair take responsibility to assert his or her authority as soon as he or she arrived? Each family is different, but it is important to prepare your kids for their au pair experience, too.
An au pair should never be seen as a servant or maid of any kind. They are skilled caregivers who can and should be helping your children become responsible family members, and the au pair should be a role model in that way as well. He or she should model good behavior for the kids in terms of cleaning up after oneself, being respectful and helpful to others, finding ways to be productive and positive, and even modeling good hygiene. An au pair should always be treated as a respected family member and elder to the Host Children.
Host Parents can also model good parenting behavior for their au pair. If the kids have behavior problems or just won’t listen to the au pair, it is likely they have misbehaved for their parents as well. What does the parent do to make the kids listen? Au Pairs should never yell at or hit children, but American parents sometimes may do this. What is an au pair to do? Have clear expectations and clear consequences!
Making a chart can work great for school-aged kids, but only if the adult remains consistent and uses it or refers to it with the children. Do the kids have basic chores or tasks to complete each day? Make a chart, using words or pictures, depending on the age of the kids, on a wipe-off board. Kids can check off when they complete a task and see what is next. It might help to identify a reward for completion of the tasks, such as tablet time or an activity the child really likes. The reward must be withheld until the task(s) is complete. Older kids can handle several tasks before a reward, while younger kids or kids with attentional issues may need shorter, more frequent rewards, after each task, for example.
It is important to discuss any behavior charts or reward plans with the Host Parents, so that they can be on board, discuss it with the kids, and back up the au pair’s authority when needed. Please contact me, Joan Lowell, your Providence-area Go Au Pair representative. What other ways do you make clear expectations for your kids and your au pair?