April 16, 2020

Before your au pair arrives: tips for staying connected

4 minutes
Advice for host families

Congratulations—you found an au pair you’re excited to welcome into your home who is equally thrilled to join your family! Now comes the hard part…waiting for the arrival date. Some families welcome their au pair just a few weeks after they match. Others plan well in advance and wait several months before they get to meet in person. And right now, with the COVID-19 virus causing delays, you may be waiting a bit longer than you expected. Whatever your situation, it’s so important to stay in touch with your au pair until they board their plane bound for the U.S. Take it from au pair Martine, from the Netherlands, who shares “we became so close even before I came here, which felt really good, and it felt like I already knew them for a long time!” Use the five tips below, shared by Cultural Care host parents and au pairs, to stay connected and build a relationship with your future au pair.

Tip #1: Tell them you’ll wait for them

It may sound a bit like a corny love song, but au pairs need regular reassurance that you’re willing and able to wait out this current uncertainty. Be direct about what you’re feeling—host mom Laura recommends “every once in a while, just saying, you know, ‘We’re so excited for you to come.’ Something to get them excited and let them you’re thinking about them.” Being in touch regularly and expressing your excitement will ease your au pair’s anxiety and strengthen their commitment to your family.

Tip #2: Plan a dinner date

Former host mom Andrea often planted her laptop at the dinner table and conferenced in her future au pairs “so they could see what it’s like to have dinner with us on a regular Wednesday night. And the kids are acting crazy, but it’s fun. It’s just a helpful way to get to know each other in those everyday moments.” You might talk about what you’ve each prepared to eat and plan to make those dishes together once your au pair arrives.

Tip #3: Schedule virtual au pair play dates

Scheduling some time for your future au pair to hang out with just your children is a great way to ignite their bond. And no matter how old your your children are, there are ways to make the most of virtual meet-ups. If you have a baby or toddler, we recommend asking your au pair to sing some songs to her or him, play an instrument or share some children’s music from their home country (check our playlist of international children’s songs for ideas). Au pair Andre, who is a competitive dancer and dance teacher in his home country of Italy, is giving his host children dance lessons over Zoom. “It’s a big challenge for me because it is not easy to teach dance through a screen but also it is a very good way to improve my English and ‘meet’ the kids.” School-aged kids can also be engaged with online games, activities or crafts—and your au pair can access Cultural Care coloring sheets and flash cards through their online account to get started. If you have teens, encourage your au pair to get them to open up by asking them fun questions featured on our Conversation Cards.

Tip #4: Give your au pair the grand tour

“It’s a really big deal when an au pair sees her room for the first time,” says veteran host mom Erin, “so we want to make sure she feels comfortable, that it feels like hers, that she feels welcome.” You can help your au pair experience all of these wonderful feelings while still in their home country by giving them a virtual “grand tour” of your home and their room. And if you can personalize their space, it will make an even bigger impact. On a tip from another host mom, Laura printed out photos from her au pair’s online profile, framed them and put them around her room. She says “[our au pair] still talks about how meaningful that was to her.”

Tip #5: Have fun with it!

Hopefully, staying in touch with your au pair becomes an enjoyable part of your routine—and not just something else to check off your to-do list. To keep communication interesting and fun, we recommend trying some of the suggestions above and finding a way to regularly keep in touch that suits your family’s schedule and personality. Maybe it’s Friday Zoom calls—a weekly FaceTime update—a daily text exchange. Find what works and stick to it—and consider a few creative ways to have fun with your au pair, too. You might encourage your children and au pair to become penpals! (We recommend sending photos of their letters vs. relying on snail mail). Or use the ultra fun Marco Polo app—likened to video walkie talkies—to exchange funny video updates throughout the week. Or, if your family is especially goofy, make a “Flat Stanley” version of your au pair to start taking with you on your family adventures (and be sure to send her—and us!—pictures). Whatever makes the staying-in-touch process fun for your family and au pair, go for it!

Every effort you make to connect with your au pair while they are still in their home country makes their arrival that much easier. Host mom Samantha, who has hosted a total of 10 au pairs, agrees: “The investment you make—every step along the way in the beginning—is going to pay off in spades. Because this is a relationship hopefully that you have for a lifetime.”