October 1, 2014

The secret to a successful host family experience

3 minutes
Advice for host families

While you may consider a nanny to be your employee, an au pair by definition is “on par” or “equal to”, indicating that your au pair should be considered more like an extended family member. We recently asked host families to share 1 piece of advice for other families considering the au pair program, and in their responses, we discovered THE secret to a successful host family experience—read their advice below!

An au pair is an added daughter or son to your household. Listen to what they tell you about your children, you may learn some fun things! Encourage your au pair to enjoy their “off” time both at home with the family as well as scheduling adventures with friends.
—Kristen Walker, CA

Be patient, pro-active and kind. Au pairs join our families during a pivotal point in their young life. They are no longer kids, but not yet adults either. It is exciting and fun to be a part of this amazing journey. I learned never to make assumptions and I ask lots of questions. Also, I really got to know our au pair’s character when we played games—playing card or board games can show you how much risk your au pair is willing to take, and how she (or he) reacts in times of stress and disappointment. It is also an excellent bonding activity for the whole family.
—Vera Sell, OR

Make your au pair feel like part of the family and she will truly feel like one.  Ask her how she’s doing each day, make sure she has what she needs, and when things are stressful, figure our what you can do to make her feel at home.
—Margaret Kepler, NH

Treat your au pair like they are part of your family, and they will give back tenfold!  Look for someone who matches your family and would be a good blend. Just have fun with them, and treat them like you would want someone to treat your child if they joined this program! Au pairs are great individuals and they just want to feel like they belong with the family and not as an outsider. They have so many hopes and dreams of their experience in the U.S.. Help to make their dreams come true!
—Dale & Nancy Pijut, IL

It is essential to think about an au pair as an extended member of your family rather than a babysitter. We think about our au pair as someone who helps with children, but also needs to be taken care of to feel at home away from home. Don’t forget to think back, we were 20 once too!
—Carola Sekreter, OH

Treat your au pair like a member of your family. Include her in activities, and remember that she is far from home and is looking to be cared for in a similar way that you are wanting them to care for your children. Clearly outline your rules and expectations for your au pair when she arrives and then review them again if you have any issues. Don’t ask your au pair to do things that you wouldn’t want to do, i.e. stay at home for 10 hours straight with children and not have any activity planned. They are human just like us.
—Kathleen Moffatt, WA

Maintaining a good working relationship with your au pair requires regular communication and negotiation, and showing that you care about your au pair is an essential part of the deal. Asking how your au pair’s day was, including her in family meals and outings, celebrating her birthday, and recognizing important holidays will go a long way toward helping her feel welcome and supported. As it turns out, it’s quite a simple secret—but taking the time be “on par” with your au pair by welcoming and getting to know her will make for a successful and happy experience for all program participants!