Each au pair arrives in the U.S. with her own child minding style and expectations. These individual differences spring from her own experiences in her own family as well as from cultural styles typical of her home country. Throughout the world parents want the best for their children, but what is best in one country may not be considered best in another.
Child care customs, games and songs are not universal and no au pair arrives knowing how parents in the U.S. raise and educate their children. This is just one of many aspects of our culture that are unfamiliar to au pairs when they arrive. Much time is spent at orientation educating au pairs about the patterns and expectations in this country. Host families can help their au pairs learn to adjust to American family expectations while the family learns to understand their au pair. Differences in expectations and style underscore the need for adequate orientation to the expectations of your household.
Au pairs will generally be surprised by the abundance of toys and activities typical of most American homes. Their inclination is likely to be towards more imaginative play, unstructured time outside and less directed playtime generally. The pace set by the classes many children attend adds to a hectic lifestyle unfamiliar to many au pairs.
When it comes to discipline, the majority of American parents tend to give choices, reward, and explain, generally being more permissive and “democratic” than is common in other cultures. Au pairs need help in understanding and accepting these practices as otherwise they may just see the children as manipulative or disrespectful when they voice their opinions and negotiate.
The cultural exchange nature of the Au Pair in America program ensures that au pairs are interested in and committed to learning about new ways of caring for children. Keep a discussion open about differences in parenting styles and be sure to help your au pair learn as much as she can about American child rearing.