House rules: setting guidelines for your au pair

September 5, 2012

Watch my Au Pair Answer Mom video “How can a host family handbook help my au pair?”

It is very important for host parents to establish their au pair house rules as soon as their au pairs arrive. Cultural Care Au Pair provides an invaluable Household Handbook which can be downloaded and customized. It allows parents to establish au pair guidelines regarding issues such as use of appliances, smoking, visitors and guests, curfews, car use, television, phone, internet, and personal and family computers. Making your house rules and regulations known from the start eliminates any confusion and sets expectations for everyone involved. Our Host Family Handbook provides additional insight into how to set household rules. 

Au Pair Car Use
You’ll want to think carefully about what your family’s guidelines will be regarding car use. Make sure you know the answers to the following questions and make sure these points are outlined clearly in the driving section of your Household Handbook:

  • Will you require your au pair to drive while on duty?
  • Will you allow her to use the car to drive to classes and au pair meetings?  
  • Will she have access to the car for personal use?
  • Who is responsible for paying for gas? 
  • Will the au pair have her own car or will she share one with you?

Upon arrival, host families and au pairs are urged to sit down together and agree on rules regarding use of the family car. Because your au pair is a “family member,” you should consider what rules you would consider reasonable for your own adult children. While an au pair should recognize that use of a car during her year is a privilege, not a right, giving your au pair access to a car will help her feel less isolated and more independent during the year, especially if you live in an area with limited public transportation.

Au Pair Phone Use
Most host families agree that providing a cell phone for their au pairs is necessary so they may get in touch with her both while she’s on duty and off. Family plans often allow families to add another cell phone account for a minimal cost. There are also cell phones that allow you to pay-as-you-go. It is your responsibility to let your au pair know what her limits are with regard to making phone calls and texting. If there are consequences to going over those limits (i.e. your au pair covers the cost), be sure to make sure she understands these as well. Rules regarding when she should be on the phone should be included in your Household Handbook. We also recommend reminding your au pair about the dangers of texting while driving.

Au Pair Computer Use
Your au pair will likely want to use a computer to keep in touch with friends and family back home through email and Skype. Most au pairs will also use a computer to check favorite websites from back home and visit popular social media sites. Some au pairs bring their own laptops and others rely on their host family’s computers for online access. In any case, we encourage you to think about what computer, if any, will be available for your au pair to use and when she will have access to it.

You’ll also want to talk to your au pair about protecting your family’s privacy when online. If it is important to you to keep photos and information about your family off of popular social media sites, make sure your au pair is aware of this.

Au Pair Curfew
Curfew is another important issue to bring up as soon as your au pair arrives, and like car, phone and computer use, there is a section of the Household Handbook dedicated to curfew. Most families give their au pairs a curfew based on when and if she will be on duty the next day. An earlier curfew on weeknights is reasonable and ensures your au pair has time to get enough rest so she can fulfill her duties. On weekends, au pairs generally expect to be out later. Some families have a “car curfew” meaning that the car must be back by a certain time but the au pair may stay out later.


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