March 14, 2013

Defining your au pair’s role within your family

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Advice for host families

Hiring a live-in au pair and welcoming that person into your family is an exciting and hopeful time. Differing from other forms of childcare, such as hiring a live-in nanny, live-out nanny or day care, the cultural exchange and the addition to one’s family that come with welcoming an au pair are unique and special opportunities for all involved. While there are many benefits of a live-in au pair, there is also the challenge of specifically defining the au pair’s role according to your family needs and expectations, and thus balancing the family like connection with your authority.

When the au pair arrives, it is important to ease them into your family’s home life with a warm welcome, helping her to settle in to both her room and the home. Once she is comfortable, she will be at her best. For your family and your au pair to have an enjoyable experience overall, it is important to be clear about expectations and to define each other’s roles right from the beginning. Keeping these goals in mind, it is beneficial to hold a weekly meeting to talk about how the relationship is going, what is working and what is not working, and to then make adjustments as needed.

Through recognizing your role as the authority in the family setting guidelines and providing guidance with support, the communication will be clear about the au pair’s role within the family. The balance of a close relationship with your au pair is achieved through clear communication, and of course, warmth and connection.

Elisa Elkin-Cleary
LICSW, Cultural Care Au Pair Program Counselor