As your au pair’s departure date approaches, her departure will affect you and her, as well as the children. There may be many different reactions to the au pair’s departure. You may see (or experience) tears, hostility or withdrawal. Remember that although it is important to talk about feelings, it may be difficult for young children to express feelings of loss, disappointment or betrayal. Therefore, children may act out their feelings instead (this can also be useful and appropriate). Any member of the household may feel angry, abandoned, sad or depressed. One common response to these feelings is to start to distance oneself. This helps some people to say good-bye, but may be confusing to other parties involved.
Here are some things to think about which might help everyone in your household prepare for your au pair’s departure:
- Young children perceive time differently than adults. Therefore, your preparation for the departure should not begin too far in advance.
- As the departure date nears, please start to talk with your children about her departure. When possible, it is helpful to link the departure date to some other event (when school is over, soon after vacation, etc.).
- It would also be desirable for your au pair herself to mention to the children that she will be leaving. Encourage her to do so.
- If you have not already discussed world geography with your child, this would be a good time to do so. Point out on a globe where you live and where your au pair is going. Discuss the distance and the travel time involved. Be clear that the au pair is going home to her family.
- Discuss the possibility of staying in touch with letters, e-mail, or even pictures if your child does not write. Be sure you have the au pair’s address, and make plans to write.
- It is often helpful (and fun) to create a small photo album for your children to look at. After your au pair leaves this can hold important memories for them.
- If you are having another au pair arrive, discuss the arrival plans with your child. Be sensitive to the possibility that your current au pair might feel badly about being “replaced” in your children’s hearts.
- Make sure there is an opportunity to say good-bye. Make it clear when it will be the last time your children will be seeing the au pair.
- If a change in routine is anticipated, try to put it in place before the new au pair arrives if possible.
- A departing au pair might want to leave a welcoming note to the next au pair along with any useful tips or information that she knows would be helpful. This could help her to feel valued by you.
As concerned parents, we often might want to protect our children from life’s bumps and bruises. However, learning to deal with loss is an important life lesson that can be understood by even young children. It is important to know that someone can care about you and still leave. With support from the family and the au pair, children can feel safe and secure while accepting the au pair’s departure. Children are often more resilient than we give them credit for, and they are also often a reflection of their parents’ feelings.