We’ve all heard the expression, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” right? That’s a true expression, and fits in well with my topic today. The Au Pair Program is one of cultural exchange, for both Host Families and Au Pairs. These Host Families expect to hire/match with an au pair who will blend into their family, caring for their children while also learning about our great American culture and sharing their own at the same time. Au Pairs expect to match with a new American family who will love them and guide them, providing room, board and a cultural exchange experience too, all while providing quality, affordable live-in childcare and taking some American courses at an American college.
Sounds great, right? And it is great for many American families and their international caregiving au pairs. Families get up to 45 hours per week of flexible childcare which also provides their kids a unique cultural exchange experience with a young person who lives with them and shares all kinds of life and world experience from his or her home country. One topic families consider but often never re-visit is the language barrier.
Yes, au pairs speak English (rated 1 to 5 by their interviewer), but they also come here to improve their English, usually. There is the South African au pair who will need to learn some American expressions, but they are miles ahead of the au pairs whose native language is not English! For a funny read about American idioms, check out Victoria and Alan’s 20 Essential English idioms.
I started off this article with “Be Positive” and the honey and vinegar expression. Why? Well, when are you ever really positive about anything? When you host an au pair and are leaving your children in the care of this young foreigner, it is important, especially if your kids don’t speak yet, that your au pair can communicate effectively, but also that he or she is positive about the instructions you’ve left them.
Secondly, even when you’re sure that he or she is sure, and then they do a good job or even exceed your expectations, be positive in your response! Be a positive Host Mom or Dad by expressing your pleasure to your au pair. He or she is new to this country and your family and may need a word of encouragement on occasion. Even if they have not totally lived up to expectations, find something positive to say. When I was teaching in public school and held team conferences with parents, one thing I always made sure I did was to begin our parent-teacher conference by saying something positive to the parent about their child.
When Host Families meet weekly with their au pair to discuss the upcoming week or how things went last week, it is a really nice gesture to start with something positive. Let’s face it – we could all use improvement at something, and the same may be said for your au pair, but start with that positive energy. There will be time for instruction later – relationships are what make a smooth household, so it would be great to find something your au pair did well. Cyndi Frick, a Host Mom and fellow blogger, hits the nail on the head with her most recent article about this very topic – go read her funny stuff when you’re done here!
If your au pair is having a hard time bonding with the kids, suggest he or she do the same. Find something positive about the child that your au pair can voice to that child. It may be something as simple as expressing how creative the child is while coloring, or noting how strong the child is while they are running or playing. These small steps, whether it be with your au pair or your child, will go a long way to building a loving, trusting relationship.
As always, contact me, Joan Lowell, your Go Au Pair Providence Representative, at 401.309.1925 or firstname.lastname@example.org, with your comments or questions. I look forward to helping your family have a cultural childcare experience like no other!