Being an Au Pair is an important decision for everyone who is thinking to get involved. It’s not only about travelling and sleeping in someone else’s house but an important reality full of responsibilities. With that, I don’t exclude you can also have fun and let your curiosity surround you, but you have to think what is the main reason why you are an Au Pair and put the priorities first.
With this little introduction, I picked up some tips that may help you to build a great experience with your future host family.
1. INTEGRATION AS A FAMILY MEMBER
The integration in the family is the most important thing to reach during your stay. It is very important for you and the host family build a relationship which is similar to your own parents. It helps to reduce the feeling of homesickness and loneliness. Being involved in the family life allows you to discover new things, different lifestyles (especially the American one) and a new way to interact with people.
During my year with my host family in New York, I had the chance to participate in many family events such as Apple picking, the Thanksgiving dinner and the Christmas tree hunt. It was great experiencing those things because in my country we are not used to doing it and here it was like a dream.
2. RESPECT FOR THE FAMILY AND FOR THE RULES
As I mentioned before, being an Au Pair means first put the priorities on the top since you are doing that because you want to experience a new country inside a familiar context. With that, it is important you respect the rules your family would like you to follow in order to keep a peaceful atmosphere and to don’t upset the routine they built before you (for American families it is really important, I can attest). Always show respect, availability and a smile. A moody person can cause some tensions and discomfort.
3. KEEP THE KID’s SAFETY
The kids are the most precious gift a parent can have and as an Au Pair, you have to put their safety first. At home or at the playground, it is very important to keep the eyes on them and protect them from all the dangers. Don’t take for granted anything even if the kids are older, everything can happen. Be careful and do not leave the children alone or with other people, even if you know them. If anything happens you are the only person responsible and this can compromise your relationship with the host parents.
To build a strong bond with your host family, it is essential to have a good communication. This means, it doesn’t have to involve only the kids and your duties as an Au Pair but even your feelings, how you are living this experience, your expectations and so on. They want to be present for you during all your stay and they want to help you when you need. Don’t close yourself thinking once you are done with them it’s finished, you need to think these people are making part of your life and you want to remember them as a good memory. You don’t know how it will turn out once you are not an Au Pair for them. They could be your new “friends” to include in your life.
Despite all the rules you and your host family have to follow due to the American Government’s regulations, being flexible with the hosts is advisable. If they need to ask you a favour or there is an emergency but you are done with your hours or you are off and you refuse because of the rules it won’t help when you will be in need. The relationship between you as a family member could become a forced permanence where you will be seen just as a nanny. I have met many au pairs where the host families treated them only as a worker. They weren’t included during the dinners and they were limited about food and holidays. In the other hands, even the family can feel uncomfortable and can change their attitude towards you.
Your approach with people is your calling card, especially with your host family. You have to remember they welcomed you in their life and they have put faith in you. You are a compass for their kids, a landmark when they are working. Show them you are able to take responsibility firmly and with love. If there are some problems with the host parents or there is something you are not happy about, speak with them quietly and tell them kindly where is the problem. Don’t show them you are irritated, it will make things harder and it can compromise your relationship with them. Take a breath.
Sometimes it is not easy to live full time with a host family. They have their routine which can be very different from the one you had in your own home. It’s something you must to get used to once you decided to become an au pair. American families, in particular, have different lifestyles, different ways to eat and a different organisation in terms of house, work and free time, that’s why sometimes you need to be tolerant and try to accept this reality. You are the “stranger” who needs to integrate into the host family’s life.
We all know that sometimes kids drive us crazy. It is normal, they are growing up and they need more attention. As an adult, you need to keep firm your nerves and do not let any sign of anger come out. Kids are taking example from you so you need to show them with kindness and patience what hey are doing wrong and show them how to do it correctly. The parents will notice some changes and they will thank you for doing a good job with their kids. Feeling gratified is the best sensation you can receive.
Creativity is the key to have fun with the host kids. You don’t only make them happy but even the parents and yourself. Spending quality time with them enriches you under many aspects. The kids start to love playing with you and desire you to stay with them forever. It is very rewarding to know you have someone who appreciates you every day and give you a lot of love.
9.5. SHARING EXPERIENCES/ OPINIONS
Sharing your personal adventures or opinions with your host family makes you feel part of it. The host parents like when you speak about yourself with them. They really want to get to know you deeply, so anytime you tell them some of your stories they are curious. Even speaking about current happenings like politics, celebrities, movies and so on is very interesting. You have different points of views so sharing the opinions keeps the conversation alive.
I hope these little tips can help you to have a great experience as an Au Pair which you can bring in your heart for the rest of your life.