Tips For Communicating About Problems With Your Host Family.
How you approach an issue of concern with your host family will often determine the outcome. A thoughtful, respectful approach will prompt success, but an aggressive, demanding conversation is likely to harm your relationship. American culture is supportive of positive solution-focused communication. Talking about concerns is hard, but well worth the effort.
- Talk in person/ face to face: texts and chats can be misunderstood. Our body language helps us to succeed in communication. Respect the family’s privacy. AVOID talking/texting negatively about the family with a neighbor, family friend, or other family relatives.
- Choose a good time to talk: Ask for a time to talk when the other person can hear you and you will have enough time to get to the resolution. AVOID catching the host parents on their way out of the door or after a long day at work. Wait until you are calm.
- Are you doing your best? Before bringing a concern into a conversation with your host parents, think through your role in their family. It may pay off to build your relationship first. Ask yourself: have I demonstrated my value to the family dynamic? Being able to demonstrate through your behavior that you are… trustworthy, safe, use good judgment, prioritize your Au pair schedule, dependable…. will serve to help you in the discussion about your concern.
- Plan: Think about what you want to say ahead of time. State clearly about one problem and how it affects you. Do some research with your CC. Ask for information about program rules and norms. Be realistic.
- Listen: Give the other person a chance to tell their side of the concern completely. AVOID interrupting to defend yourself. Really try to hear from their perspective. Let the other person know you want to understand from their side, and you would be happy if they could see your perspective too.
- Role model that YOU are listening: You may not agree with the other perspective. Tell the other person you see that your behavior affected them or the importance of what you are now asking for. For example: “I see that when I was 30 minutes late, it made my host child feel scared and it lead you to think that I did not prioritize my au pair role.” State that you are glad that this information is being discussed together and that you are happy that it will make your relationship with the family better. You really want to find a solution and appreciate the feedback.
- Give Information but stay on track: AVOID letting the conversation move to a general discussion of your unhappiness. Be specific. If you are saying” when you were late last week …and when you said I cannot take the car… and when the children yelled at me…. and I had to take the dog out too… and then you didn’t ask me to go with you all to get ice cream.” it will be hard to single out a solution!
- Talk about your perspective: Avoid telling the other person how they are or are not, making them angry is not an effective way to find a solution together. It is ok to talk about how the behavior made you feel. Talk about the most difficult things. If you are not able to get them out in the open during this conversation, no solution can be made. For example: “When you don’t involve me in your plans outside my work schedule, it makes me feel like an employee not really an important part of your family.”
- What is the solution? Americans have a saying: “don’t be a part of the problem, be a part of the solution.” How do you see a solution for the concern? Be specific:” I would feel better about my relationship with the family if you did ask me sometimes to go with you. I understand you are not able to ask me every time. I would appreciate occasionally being asked to join in the family fun times”.
- Follow-through: The hardest work is over! You have successfully talked through a concern and made it to the end with a solution in place. Agree to set up regular talks that both parties can express a concern and move through the steps you have taken today to make your relationship the best that it can be!