Homesickness. It is the nature of the beast, as we say, when Au Pairs who leave family, friends, home, their culture, language, everything familiar, come live with American strangers who will become his or her family for a year or more. Like nervousness, grief and most emotions, people deal differently.
Maybe you’re an eater, or a can’t-eater, when stressed or otherwise put in a difficult situation. Most of us cannot imagine the culture shock many Au Pairs experience. While your LAR, that’s me, your Local Area Representative, is here to support you and your Au Pair throughout the experience, it is you, the Host Family, who spends every day with your Au Pair and can be the first line of defense against the enemy. Keep in mind your Au Pair might be afraid to share feelings if that is not culturally “normal” or “expected.” Be sure to let him or her know to tell you if feeling down, lost or missing everything home.
So if so many people experience this, what is the solution? Just like people deal differently with emotions, there may be a variety of solutions. First, open lines of communication are essential to see it coming, deal with it, and celebrate progress! Introduce your Au Pair to some friends or family their age who might help them get out and make more friends.
I would like to interject an important point here. Your Au Pair left a mom or dad or both, and maybe siblings, friends, school, a job, his or her home, to be a part of your family and be there for your kids. It goes a long way to make sure your Au Pair has access to home, whether it be Skype, email, phone or whatever. Just because they’re a half-a-world away doesn’t mean they can’t keep in close contact still. Be sure to encourage communication with home and get involved in it yourself. A biological mom wants to know the Host Mom is looking after her child in a loving and protective way, not just being the boss.
Okay, getting active is a quick solution. Find things to do in your spare time. Get active with your Host Children, if you can, in the school, community or neighborhood. Find some volunteer activity where you will be helping others. Ask your Host Family, other Au Pairs or friends and neighbors what there is to do in your area. When you exhaust that, think about school. Have you signed up for classes yet? Getting active and engaging in each day, even making a list, is a great way to get rid of the winter blahs. Don’t forget to reach out to your LAR, suggest an event, or ask for advice!
For some fun in RI, I found two articles, with surprisingly similar locations on their lists. If you can’t find anything else to do, read about and visit these places! One is 12 Place in RI You Must See Before You Die (weird title, I agree) and the other is These 15 Terrifying Places in RI Will Keep You Awake Tonight. It is also interesting to note that I have held Au Pair or Host Family events at several of these locations too! Of the terrifying places, we’ve been to at least four, starting with the mansions in Newport, but not in them, yet. We saw the movie, The Conjuring, based on a haunted location in Burrillville at the Rustic Drive-In. We’ve ridden the carousel and had an International Pot Luck at Colt State Park.
As always, contact me, Joan Lowell, your Providence area representative, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401.309.1925 anytime.