Most au pairs have mixed feeling about returning home. As the program end nears, there is both excitement and nerves about adjusting to life at home.
Consider joining the Au Pair in America webinar for au pairs on July 31: Going Home? Tips for Leaving the U.S. and Settling in at Home. Check your email for registration information.
Adapting to life back home will include some of the same emotions experienced with adjusting to life in the United States, such as:
- Homesickness (this time for your American family and friends)
- Rejecting things that are cultural norms in your home country
- Adapting to a new environment and routine
- Accepting your new situation
How do you prepare for going home? While you have been away, things at home may have changed. You have certainly changed, and after adapting to the American culture, you must adapt again to your own culture.
Here are some tips to consider as you prepare for the journey home:
- Be flexible as you think about life back home, give yourself time to adjust, and don’t expect it to be easy every day.
- Let yourself be sad and feel the loss of friends and family.
- Reflect on your experience and acknowledge what you have gained and learned during your au pair year.
- Focus on positive ways you have grown.
- Make a list of the skills you have acquired or strengthened as an au pair.
- Make your new resume!
- You made it! Celebrate and be proud of your au pair achievements.
- Going home is not the end of something….it’s the beginning of something new.
Image: torbakhopper (Flickr)
Au pairs often reach out to me to discuss concerns they have. The first question I always ask is whether they have brought it up to their host parents yet. The answer is normally no. I suggest to them to bring it up at their next routine check-in meeting with their host parents, because host parents can’t help with problems they don’t know about. A surprising number of au pairs tell me that they have no such check-in meetings with their host parents and many say they never even had them in the beginning of the match.
A lot of communication takes place via text. It is difficult to understand the intended tone of text messages and this can lead to miscommunications. This is especially true when you add in the fact that English is not the first language of most au pairs. There are subtle nuances in language that have positive and negative connotations and it takes many years to learn those things. When speaking face to face, we can see someone’s facial expressions and body language and that helps us understand what they are trying to communicate.
I realize many host parents have demanding jobs and are stretched thin, but these check-in conversations are important for a successful match. The biggest thing is putting that time on the calendar and sticking with it.
With au pairs living in their host family’s home and in many instances having two host parents, they often feel outnumbered and powerless. Many au pairs have a very hard time bringing up concerns to their host parents. And when host parents don’t ask how an au pair is feeling or how things are going, they often think the host parents don’t want to know.
Why is it important to create this open communication environment?
- Good communication strengthens your relationship with your au pair.
- It tells your au pair that her feelings, wants, and needs matter to you.
- It’s easier to address problems when they are small.
- It creates a less stressful/awkward environment in the home.
- It reduces the chances of a rematch.
Bonus Tip: If you cannot say yes to an au pair’s request or need to ask them to deviate from their normal schedule or duties, it’s always a good idea to give a brief explanation. Without any context these kind of situations can lead to assumptions and hard feelings, when there may have been a simple, reasonable explanation.
Image: John Benson (Flickr)
Last weekend, we volunteered at the Capital Area Food Bank in DC. We were tasked with filling boxes that will be distributed to families in need. Our group made up more than half of the afternoon volunteer shift that filled 900 boxes!
The boxes go around on a conveyor belt and each pair of volunteers adds it’s designated food can or package. The boxes sped up as the group gets better at filling them. We never quite got to I Love Lucy speed, but there were a few intense moments. It was a great experience and several of the au pairs said that they would be interested in going back and volunteering on their own. If you are interested in helping the Capital Area Food Bank, check out their Volunteer Information Page.
Being knowledgeable in basic first aid and CPR is important for au pairs (and anyone else caring for children). Au Pair in America’s commitment to infant/child safety begins before au pairs arrive in the U.S., with pre-arrival training and continue throughout the au pair year.
#1 Training At Orientation
Our orientation training includes a course by American Red Cross on infant/child CPR and safety. Additional child safety training covers a variety of aspects of child safety and cultural differences in common childcare practices.
#2 Enroll in a Red Cross Certification Class
After settling into their host community, all au pairs are encouraged to complete an Infant/Child CPR and First Aid certification program. Au Pair in America will pay for this training through the American Red Cross.
Classes are available through the Red Cross. Au Pair in America will pay for the cost of a class providing an au pair has at least six months left on her visa and is taking one of several approved childcare/child safety-related classes, such as Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED. Au pairs should check with their community counselor and host family before signing up. Au Pair in America will register the au pair directly.
To locate a class, visit www.redcross.org/takeaclass. For step-by-step instructions on how to locate a class and have Au Pair in America complete enrollment, click here.
#3 Stay Current on Safety Information
The official American Red Cross First Aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. Available for iPhone and Android devices, this app gives you instant access to the information you need to know to handle the most common first aid emergencies. With videos, interactive quizzes, and simple step-by-step advice, it’s never been easier to know first aid. Download the app for free from the American Red Cross website or in your app store.
Photos: Robin Leon
When the kids are out of school on summer break there are soooo many possibilities. But, if you don’t make plans, you will often end up in the house with bored kids getting into trouble and arguing with their siblings. Make plans!
Having lots of ideas ready can minimize those problems.
Looking for fun activity ideas to get the summer started off right with your host kids?
The Au Pair in America Summer Fun Pinboard is a great place to start. Together, create a Summer Bucket List. Talk with the kids about things they would like to see and do. Even toddlers and preschoolers can contribute to the conversation. Run these plans by your host parents and clear things like how much you may spend and when is best to do some of these activities.
Check back here next week for information on Camp Au Pair in America: a weekly blog series with themes for a summer break filled with fun and new adventures.
Photo: MissMessie (Flickr)
Host parents have many responsibilities and are often very busy. Hosting an au pair can provide help with a large part of the childcare related responsibilities. Below are a few simple things you can do to help your au pair match flourish.
Treat Your Au Pair Like a Family Member – Au pairs who feel appreciated and included as a member of their host family tend to see their host children as family members and feel very invested in their happiness and success.
Stay on Top of Payments – Au pairs can feel very uncomfortable if they need to ask for their weekly stipend payment. This can also make them feel like their work is not appreciated or you are unconcerned about their needs. Add a recurring weekly event on your calendar, use payment apps or automatic bank transfer to schedule your au pair’s stipend payment and give yourself one less thing to remember.
The same is true for their transportation costs to cluster meetings and classes. Au pairs let their host family know about the costs but some host parents don’t always follow through and reimburse them. Here’s a blog post with information and tips on how to handle transportation costs.
Communication – Make time every couple of weeks for a check-in conversation. This provides your au pair a time to bring up questions or concerns which she may be hesitant to bring up when she see’s how busy you are day to day. It’s also a good time for discussing any concerns you have as well as planning for upcoming events or schedule changes.
Photo: Shared by an APIA Host Family
In the final months of your au pair year, it can be tempting to become relaxed in the way you complete your duties. You may be thinking about your travel month, returning home and the next chapter of your life. That can be exciting and sometimes a little overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to talk with your host family, community counselor and friends if you need support.
You have done a wonderful job and made it so far! Don’t forget you are still an important part of your host family and they are still counting on you in these final months of your program.