Homesickness can be a problem during the holidays, even if it hasn’t been at any other time of the year. Au pairs often miss their friends and family, familiar places, and their own traditions and customs. The holiday activities in the United States seem, and may actually be, different just at a time when an au pair would welcome something familiar.
It is common for au pairs’ emotions to be close to the surface during the holidays. Her highs are higher, her lows are lower. The enormity of what she has done–actually living in another country (which is an amazing thing when you think about it!)–hits her and throws her into a self-protective mode.
Au Pairs, there are things you can do to reduce homesickness during the holidays. It is important to balance your activities to feel connected to your family back home and your traditions but also embrace new customs and experiences here in the U.S.
Share your traditions with your host family and friends. Each country has its own special holiday customs. Being friends with other au pairs, you can not only learn about the U.S. but also how other countries celebrate. When you talk with your family back home, you can share some of the new holiday experiences you are having. That can help lessen the feeling of missing out on moments at home by reminding you that you are here in the U.S. for a short time and you are making memories that will last a lifetime.
Host Parents can help her through this unfamiliar territory by talking to her about what your specific family activities will be (gifts, meals, visitors, religious services, in-home traditions, or none of these, as the case may be.) In the spirit of cultural exchange, ask her if she has any favorite holiday traditions or foods that you might be able to incorporate into your family’s celebration of the season. Let her know what you will be doing when you will be doing it, and what she can expect. Talk to her about what has to be accomplished and get her involved and interested. Don’t expect her to just “know” what needs to be done. Give her some clear, agreed-upon assignments. Make her feel a part of things. And, let her know her contribution is needed and appreciated.
Photo: Lina Cabeza Paez