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How To Foster a Successful Working Au Pair Relationship

How To Foster a Successful Working Au Pair Relationship

By Vanessa Douglas

A truly successful Au Pair working relationship comes from investing in the working relationship from Day 1. During the first few days of having your Au Pair in your home, give lots of instructions as to how the household works and why you do things a certain way, so he/she can understand the nuances behind behaviours.

You must always start as you wish to continue, so have the routine ready to go.  

Those first few days will be hard for everyone, getting to know each other’s quirks, starting to bond with the children and so on.

You must take charge. Always remember that the “buck stops with you”. This is your family, and if you don’t communicate what it is that you expect then he/she won’t know. 

It is unpleasant to talk about, but children can have dire consequences if not properly supervised. I always like to make sure the Au Pairs are reminded of risks to children–frequently. The more you impart your concerns, the more they will know what to look out for, remember most of these Au Pairs are young, with limited life experience, on a travelling holiday. I would remind my Au Pairs regularly:

  • “A child can drown in a bowl of cereal...so do not leave them unattended in any water at any time”;
  • “There are sexual predators everywhere, never let the children out of your sight when you are in public places”;
  • “If you are in a public place and have to go to the toilet or have to find something, take the children with you”. I once had an Au Pair leave my 2-year-old in his pram whilst she went to look for his shoes in a very large park, easily open to child abduction. Coincidentally, my sister was there, whom the Au Pair did not know. My sister watched my child for his safety, but she timed the Au Pair and how long she left him unattended, he was left for a good 5 minutes! This was of course totally unacceptable;
  • “I know you need to have your phone on to connect with me, but I would ask you to really engage with the children when I am not here, and my expectation is you will not be looking at social media or reading when you are working, as it is not possible to do both” Recently on an Au Pair Facebook page, an Au Pair posted a description of another families Au Pair, she detailed the description of the Au Pair, her name, the child in her care and his name. The concerned Au Pair said the child in her care was basically neglected in a park for hours and was not watched. She posted the information in the hope that the Host Mother saw the post, as she felt the safety of the child, who was 2 years old, was severely compromised. These are risks and as the parent, you must work hard to combat situations like this. 

Check-in with your Au Pair and check-in with your kids. It is so important your Au Pair is happy. If they are happy, they will be inclined to do the right things. Ask them how they are finding the role, if there is anything they need help with and so on. Find out from the kids if they are enjoying the care they are being given and provide feedback as necessary. These conversations can be awkward–but presented in a positive way–applauding the good things and trying to work on those things that could be better, is a good approach.

 

And finally, be kind and patient. Little things like getting a coffee for your Au Pair, if you are getting one, goes a long way to help the Au Pair feel comfortable and valued. Remember they are away from their home and little acts of kindness here and there are a great way to show him/ her that you care.

 

Good luck with your Au Pair search. There are a few horror stories in here, but with these tips, I am sure you will be finding your next “Tara” too!

 

Vanessa Douglas

Vanessa Douglas is a stay at home mum with three beautiful children.  She and her family live in Brisbane.  Before children, Vanessa worked as a lawyer at a top-tier Family Law firm in Brisbane. When she and her husband relocated to London, Vanessa changed career paths and began working in Legal recruitment, specialising in the Corporate and Banking & Finance sector of Private Practice. She was one of the top billing recruiters in the UK during her time with her recruitment firm. She has placed many many successful clients, overseen hundreds of resumes and has a knack for picking the right person for the right job. Her professional experience combined with her practical experience of navigating the world of ‘au pairs’ makes her article a 'must’ read.

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