In my video series, Au Pair Answer Mom, I answer families’ frequently asked questions about au pair childcare such as, “Why is it important to schedule regular family meetings with our au pair?”
An important communication tool that you can use to create a successful au pair experience is a monthly family meeting. This is a really nice opportunity for all members of the family to touch base and talk about how things are going, what is going well and what could maybe be improved.
At our family meetings, we give every member a chance to talk – including the kids! The topics range each month, depending on how things are going. But we often talk about discipline, for example, if the au pair is having problems with the kids listening to her or not behaving. This is a great opportunity to ensure that the children understand that when our au pair is working, she is in charge and what she says goes. It helps for the children to hear this from us in front of her and also helps our au pair feel supported by us. It is also a good tool to make sure that you and your au pair on the same page in regards to discipline.
We also ask our au pair how things are going for her and if she has any concerns. You have to let you r au pair know that she can always talk to you about how things are going and that she doesn’t have to wait until the monthly family meeting to bring things up. The family meeting just provides a venue to make sure that everyone has the chance to talk about the au pair experience together.
While we do take this time to address issues, the goal of the meeting is to make sure the family is on the same page and everyone is moving forward on a positive note. So, it is important to spend time highlighting what is working well, just as we spend time on what isn’t working as well and discuss solutions. You can also use this time to look at scheduling over the coming weeks and months, and talk about vacations or work travel you may have coming up and schedule your next family meeting.
To ensure everyone can participate, I recommend setting a standard day and time for your family meetings. Perhaps the first Sunday of the month over dinner is when you all agree to meet. Or maybe it is a morning over breakfast. Or maybe you schedule it on a month to month basis. Because family schedules are hectic with soccer games, dance practices, etc., not to mention au pair school schedule and meetings, I encourage you and your au pair to identify a time that is suitable for both parties and put it on the calendar. Make sure everyone commits to attend.
The family monthly meeting is certainly not mandated by the program. But it is a useful tool that facilitates open communication among the entire family. In fact, one host mom friend of mine told me that in her experience, going a couple of months without a family meeting is when she notices that things might start to fall apart. A family meeting can help address things before they become issues, helping to foster a successful host family and au pair experience.