Welcoming a young adult into your home signals a period of adjustment for both the Au Pair and your family. It takes time to settle in and build the relationship, time to build up trust and confidence. The difference between a great host family, and an average one comes down to the commitments you make to the experience. By making these five commitments a family will be ready to welcome an Au Pair and make the experience a rewarding one for everyone.
1. Orient and welcome your new Au Pair: First impressions count and great families think about how the Au Pair will transition into their families as well as the local community and wider country. Things will be very new for them and it will take time for it all to “click” together. Orienting your Au Pair to local customs, your family traditions and history will make them comfortable and welcome from an early stage. Orient your Au Pair in terms of social opportunities including how to meet other Au Pairs and young people. Great host families will create a welcome pack with maps, tourist information, transport options and information about how to use household technology and appliances.
2. Make them feel safe and secure: in your home and in the community. What do they need to know about driving in Australia, healthcare, travelling at night or alone? Let them know they can raise any issue with you and what they should do if they have a car accident or there is an emergency with the children. Have you provided a safe and private space to rest and recharge after the day’s work? What information can you give to your Au Pair to encourage a safe approach to caring for your children, what should they be looking out for?
3. Give clear expectations: An Au Pair in a new country has a lot to take in and remember. Giving clear expectations and standards of what is required saves everyone from frustration. It’s even helpful to write these things down in a family manual that way the Au Pair can refer to this without the need to constantly check in with you about how things are done. By stating expectations clearly and upfront it allows you to address any issues that arise earlier rather than later when potential resentments have kicked in. This includes being clear on how expenses will be handled and expectations around any pocket money provided. You might also explain what these expectations look like in reality, give some examples to help aid understanding of how your family works.
4. Communicate and check-in regularly: Setting clear guidelines and expectations is one thing, but regularly checking in to see how its working is a critical component of success. Raising issues early and discussing how to resolve them is key. Flexibility is important for families, but remember to communicate any changes to your schedule clearly and as early as possible, and don’t forget that flexibility is a two way street. If your Au Pair has had to change their plans to catch up with friends due to a family emergency, how can you recognise this and thank them for their commitment to your family? Reviewing your family schedule for the upcoming week is a great way to keep these communication channels open and to reiterate expectations for the coming week.
5. Involve them: treat them like an extended family member – even though they have work to do. Think of your experience as a cultural exchange, what can you learn from your Au Pair’s culture, customs and traditions? Expect that they will want to share these things with you as well as learn about Australian life and culture. Your Au Pair may get homesick around special occasions including Christmas and birthdays. Be aware of this and involve them in your family activities where appropriate.
By making these five commitments to your Au Pair, your experience should be a rewarding and enriching one for your family.