Choosing an au pair is a huge decision for any family. Introducing her into an already established family routine may seem a bit awkward at first. However, there are a few things that a family can do ahead of time to make an au pair's transition easier for everyone.
Talk To Older Kids
Statistically, most families who hire an au pair do so in order to have extra help rearing their small children. If any of the kids are over the age of two, it can be extremely beneficial to talk to them ahead of time about the au pair's arrival. Kids have a tendency to resist changes to their routine and the idea of having someone different take them to preschool or dance class should be brought up before it actually happens. If possible, allow a few days for an au pair to bond with the children and family before she takes on family responsibilities alone. This is the best way to ensure a smooth transition of duties.
Most likely, a family's au pair will be driving the children to different activities, going grocery shopping or running other necessary errands. Most auto insurances require notification when another driver is added to a policy. It is important to officially add an au pair simply because of the amount of driving she will be doing for the family. Auto insurance is one of those things most people don't really think about until they really need it! The small increase in premium that may occur due to adding another driver is well worth the piece of mind.
Most au pair agencies require that an au pair have her own private room within the household. Before she arrives, it is a nice gesture to have this room prepared with a clean bed and appropriate places to store her clothes and belongings. Remember, she is going to be living in this room for at least a year. Any extra items of comfort that a family can afford to add (like a mirror, radio alarm clock, etc) are much appreciated!
Schedules are always subject to changes and revisions, but it is helpful to have a working schedule established before an au pair arrives. Most agencies limit the maximum number of hours an au pair can work in a week. Sitting down and mapping out what an au pair's work week will look like and the duties for which she is responsible will go a long way towards preventing mistakes and miscommunications. When an au pair knows exactly what is expected, it is easier to do her job and do it well.
Foreign Language Skills
Most au pairs take the position in order to experience life in America for a year and brush up on their English language skills. This means that when an au pair first arrives, she most likely will not be completely fluent in English. Once a family has chosen an au pair and is aware of her native language, it can help to learn a few important phrases or vocabulary words. Not only will the au pair appreciate the effort, but it will help with translating important messages and making her feel comfortable.
It is important to note that oftentimes when a person is learning a second language they understand a lot more than they are able to communicate themselves. Comprehension of verbal and written language comes before being able to speak fluently.
By following these few tips, the transition of welcoming an au pair into the home can be an easy process. Families who host an au pair often say it was one of the best decisions they made for their children and the health of their family.