When a new au pair comes into your family, there is a period of adjustment as she /he starts this new job in a new country. To be a supportive and helpful family/employer, here are some suggestions:
- Ask for references and resumé / CV before you hire.
- Ask important questions and evaluate: Do you sense that the potential au pair and your family are compatible?
- Communicate your family’s lifestyle, and describe your children and language preferences.
- Write a clear job description. Explain exactly what you expect of your au pair, including their hours, daily tasks, chores, etc. *Because it matters to you- make it clear and in writing.
- Meet once a week with your au pair, at least for the first 2 months to establish good communication patterns. Go through the job description, your expectations, everyone’s weekly schedule, say ‘good job’ and ‘thank you’ to show your appreciation (encouragement goes a long way!), explain your family habits of discipline, eating, sleeping, etc. Because the au pair spends so much time with your children, ask for their input on the children’s development.
- Help your au pair understand local customs. Explain how to use public transportation or specifics about driving a car in your country. How do telephone (home and mobile) and Internet expenses work in your country? Most families provide the au pair with a mobile phone, as well as internet access.
- Introduce your children to the new au pair. Tell your au pair about your child(ren): ages, hobbies, health concerns, family routines, medical needs, allergies, etc. Talk with your children about the authority/position of your au pair in the family.
- Holidays/vacations: Does your au pair have the local holidays as vacation? What are her vacation times? Does she have school holidays? Does she have weeks off when the family is away? Are her holidays paid days?
- The “personal” and the “professional” nature of the au pair/family relationship:
– It is “personal” because you are living in the same home and they are taking care of your most precious possession – your children! – It is “professional” because the au pair is your employee.
A balanced relationship would have both “personal” and “professional” aspects. Perhaps the best balance is to have a strong professional relationship with a comfortable personal dimension. Most au pairs would like to feel like part of your family.
- Medical needs: Be sure the au pair has all of the emergency phone numbers: ambulance, fire, police, doctor’s, parents’ work, and poison control. Is your au pair aware of your children’s allergies and medications? For your au pair: Does she have medical insurance? Who will provide the insurance? If she is sick, how will you coordinate the family schedule?
Be aware that the au pair is not necessarily an experienced and skilled child care provider, but a young adult wanting a positive experience in a new culture, while living with your young family and taking care of your children.
Show integrity in your relationship with your au pair, and let him/her know that you support him/her,and you will both have a great experience!