When au pairs are staying with you for a year—or even up to two full years—there’s a good chance they’ll experience difficult times, and you’ll be there to bear witness to it. Maybe your au pair will even experience a true crisis … an illness or death in the family, a natural disaster here in the U.S. or back in their home country, or any other number of things.
For many au pairs, even going through a bad break-up with a boyfriend or girlfriend can qualify as a crisis for them! Regardless of what the situation may be, if an au pair is feeling the impact of a devastating situation, it can be tough to know how to help.
But the role of a host parent is quite crucial when it comes to supporting your au pair during tough times. You are meant to be a guide for them—and, hopefully, an extended member of their family. If your au pair is experiencing a crisis, we recommend trying to help by following the advice below, collected by Cultural Care host moms who have gone through it themselves.
Be more available more often
As a host family, you are your au pair’s lifeline and their biggest source of support while they are here in the U.S. And a big part of supporting your au pair is just being there. “During tough times for my au pair, I want to step in and support her as much as I can and be more available to them,” says host mom Denaye Barahona Ph.D., whose family has hosted two au pairs.
Another tip from host mom Denaye is to practice empathy. “It’s really important that we have empathy for our au pairs. These are young people, far away from their families. I’ve been a young person abroad, away from home, and I know that any minor ordeal had me thinking about going home.” You can help your au pair by putting yourself in their shoes.
Connect with your au pair’s natural family
Marcie Wolbeck, Cultural Care staff member and host mom, has supported eight au pairs during their program terms with her family. She recommends reaching out to an au pair’s natural family when appropriate. As her current au pair struggles with the effects of the coronavirus, Marcie says, “I let Letizia know that any time she wants to talk to her family back home, she is welcome to. Because I want her to feel like she has support not only from us, but also from her family back home. I have also been in touch with Letizia’s natural family myself.”
Prepare your au pair’s favorite comfort food
Andrea Birkel, Cultural Care staff member and four-time host mom, recommends that when your au pair is feeling down, to “reach out them to see if there are any comfort foods that their mom or dad or somebody at home used to make for them when they were sick or tired or feeling sad. Showing that you would be willing to make your au pair’s favorite comfort food could be really helpful.” Food is a great way to communicate love and care!
Gift your au pair with small tokens of cheer
A little something special—new slippers or bubble bath or a gift card—can go a long way toward making your au pair feel cared for. According to host mom Andrea, being thoughtful during difficult times will help “to show your au pair that you care and that things are not always going to be like this. Things are going to get better and they’re going to be able to use a gift card at a local restaurant or coffee shop.”
Encourage your au pair to practice self-care
Self-care will look different depending on the individual, but making sure your au pair is eating well, exercising, getting enough rest, and spending time outside are all tried and true ways for them to heal, both physically and mentally. Cultural Care Program Counselor Jeri Dufresne, LCSW, also recommends au pairs try deep breathing and thought-stopping to interrupt patterns of negative thinking.
Enlist the help of your LCC or a Program Counselor
If your au pair needs support beyond what you can offer them, your Local Childcare Consultant is available to help. Part of an LCC’s responsibilities is to be a listening ear for au pairs who are facing tough issues—and they can often provide a more objective perspective. Au pairs who continue to struggle might find relief from a Cultural Care Program Counselor, and you can make an appointment with the help of your Customer Relations Manager.
Facing life challenges while far from home, family, and friends can be tough for au pairs—but with your help, proper self-care, and the support of the Cultural Care team, they will very likely overcome and even learn from them.