When you were preparing to bring your first child into your family, you probably spent months reading up on what to expect and what you should do to prepare your home, yourself and your family for your new arrival. While there aren’t thousands of books devoted to the subject, it’s equally important to give some thought and spend some time getting ready to welcome your first au pair into your home and family as well.
It may be useful to think about how you can prepare your home, yourselves as parents and your children for this exciting addition to help make your transition into a host family as smooth as possible.
Before your au pair arrives, set up her room to make it as welcoming and home-like as possible. Au pair rooms should have at least a bed, a dresser and a closet, as well as a locking door. You may want to provide a phone, TV, mirror, desk or other furniture depending on what your space allows and also how much time you expect or want her to spend in her room versus in common space in your home. Other touches that can help make an au pair feel welcome are writing a welcome letter to leave on her bed, getting some fresh flowers for her room or having your kids decorate her door with a welcome sign.
Before your au pair arrives, it’s a good idea to sit down with your spouse or partner, if you have one, and discuss each of your expectations and roles regarding communication with your au pair. You may also wish to discuss your vision of when the au pair will be invited to be included in family time, and what role you want her to play in meal times. Finally, it’s a good idea to review your Host Family Handbook and go over your agenda for your first family meeting together so you don’t forget any topics that might be important to one or both of you. You will need to decide who will be available for the first three days to help your au pair settle in. She may need help with paperwork such as obtaining a drivers’ license, getting insurance coverage, setting up a bank account and learning her way around the neighborhood. If possible, it’s nice for parents to both be involved in the process of getting her settled so you both get to know her right away.
Kids need time to get used to the idea of having someone else living in their home too. It’s important to start talking about the new au pair early and often, so kids can ask questions and voice any concerns. Specific areas you should discuss (when age appropriate) include: cultural and language differences and how to work through communication issues, schedule and routine changes, and the role and authority that the new au pair will have. You may want to involve your children in preparing the au pair’s new room, making a welcome sign for the airport or writing their own welcome letter to the au pair.