For many of us au pairs, the adventure is a new and exciting experience especially if this is your first time as an au pair. Everything is different. From the buildings, the people, the culture, the food and most importantly, the family. A lot of au pairs, including myself, experience homesickness because living in a different country can be a massive culture shock.
We’re often searching for comfort when feeling homesick or depressed. Sometimes this comfort can be food, friends or home. They say “Home is where the heart is” but what if you don’t feel welcomed in your host family’s home? What if you don’t feel comfortable at home with your hosts kids? It’s important to have a good au pair experience so we’ve developed some advice to help you connect with your host kids.
- Communication is key. This is probably the most obvious yet underrated advice out there. It’s important you talk regularly to your host kids. Whether it’s responding to a baby with gurgling sounds or asking whether your 12 year old host child has finished completing his homework or not, it’s important to engage in conversations with your host children.
- Language barrier. Lucky for me, I was an au pair from England in America which meant my British English was fairly understood amongst Americans. But for most au pairs there may be a language barrier as your host country’s native language may not be your expertise. This can cause communication problems between you and your host kids especially the younger aged ones who may make fun out of your accent. Don’t let your guard down and ensure you establish your authority. You’re the au pair, you’re in charge, take control.
- Introduce them to your culture. It goes without saying that you learn about your host’s country culture but what about your host kid’s learning about your culture? Children learn new things at school every day. Teach your host kid’s about your culture and lifestyle as well. This way, they’ll develop an understanding on how things work in your home country. It will also help expand the children’s language and vocabulary if you teach them your language.
- Do things they like. It’s hard to be the fun au pair, the smart au pair and the disciplined au pair all at once. From my 18 months au pair experience, I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to give in. Once, I remember planning a whole day out with my host kid’s. We had a play date at the park, then we were going to go to the library, eat lunch at Panera Bread and then finish the day with a bubble bath at home. Of course, my plans went out the window as my host kid’s argued over their scrambled eggs not being too “scrambly enough” and then refused to get dressed. Instead, we watched a movie to calm the kids down, ate home-made sandwiches for lunch and spent the rest of the day playing indoors. Sometimes you have to be the reasonable au pair even if that means making sacrifices for the sake of your host kids.
- More au pairs, more problems. Most of us au pairs are replacing the previous one, also known as, “The Greatest Au Pair of All Time,” according to your host kids. This may make you feel neglected, unwanted, hopeless and completely useless especially if your host kid’s maintained a strong bond with the previous au pair. Try not to let this get to you because once upon a time, that previous au pair felt just as hopeless as you. Use this time to bond with your host kids by doing the things they enjoy the most. This is a perfect opportunity to get them to respect you.
If you have any tips, we would love to hear from you!