Several host families have asked me to share more about our experience as host parents. Of course every day is different and no two host families or au pairs are alike, but here are some ways we have found to successfully communicate with our au pairs.
1. Weekly meetings: We meet every Sunday evening with our AP to discuss schedules, the children’s behavior, and other issues. This helps my husband and me communicate as well, so we think it’s important for both host parents to attend these meetings. (We’ve also had meetings during the work week with my husband using Facetime from his office.)
2. Schedule: We use the weekly meeting to go over the upcoming week’s schedule and discuss future changes (vacations, etc.). An online calendar is critical for our planning purposes. Cozi works for us, but Google Calendar is great too. We schedule everything online for the kids- school drop-off and pick-up, playdates, haircuts, doctors’ appointments, etc. All 3 of us can access the calendar and know who is responsible for each event.
3. Texting: I work from home, and it’s easier if my kids don’t see me during the day, so my AP and I text a lot with each other. For example, if I need a snack, I’ll send our AP a text and give her time to take the kids to the basement or outside before heading to the kitchen.
4. Compliments: We use our meetings to compliment our au pair on areas we’ve found her to be particularly successful (even the smallest thing). This is really helpful when we need to address an issue that isn’t as positive.
5. Rewards: We look for ways to surprise our AP. Has she been great about entertaining the kids during a snow day? Did she soldier through a bad round of strep throat? Do we know she’s excited to see an upcoming movie? Starbucks gift cards, pedicure gift certificates, and movie gift cards go a long way to helping an AP feel appreciated and loved. (You can find discounted movie and restaurant gift cards at Costco.)