Keeping a healthy relationship with your au pair is the single most important thing after picking the right one. You definitely want your au pair to stay, and you want your children to have a fair chance of building a trusting relationship with her.
So how do we keep everyone happy?
As with any relationship, the key is open, honest and clear communication. Follow this rule right from the get-go, starting at the interview. Here are six tips on how to keep a happy and healthy relationship with your au pair, for both existing and new host parents:
1) Be very honest.
Every family has its ups and downs or difficulties, and there is no shame in that. When meeting your au pair, avoid painting a rose-coloured picture of your family. Apart from the fact that this won’t do you any good, it may sometimes seem intimidating to a prospective au pair, leaving them anxious about making mistakes or not living up to expectations. A nervous is au pair is not a happy au pair.
2) Keep the relationship friendly, but professional .
Yes, you want your au pair to ultimately feel like a part of your family, but also give her and yourself the personal space needed to keep the relationship healthy. By keeping it professional, you can avoid awkwardness when it comes to talking about things like money, schedule or any other job-related matters.
3) Give clear instructions.
I cannot stress this point enough! It is hugely beneficial to be as organised as possible. Use a whiteboard or a shared Google calendar and make a chart outlining your children’s activities for each weekday (e.g. time to be fetched from school, extra mural times, when to give lunch, homework time, when to start cooking dinner, etc.). You can make this chart together and have your au pair offer her own input. It will be a massive help to your her and will help you as a parent to keep track of what you can expect your au pair to be doing at different times of the day, as well as what you can reasonably expect to be done at the end of each day.
4) Have reasonable expectations .
Your au pair is probably not a miracle-worker (although sometimes that may be what you need!). It takes a massively versatile person to be a driver, tutor, shopper, cook and your children’s best friend all in one. She is probably not going to be good at all of it. Give her time to settle into it and then allow her to be a human, weaknesses and all.
5) Acknowledge to your au pair when she is awesome.
Because your au pair is working with children, it probably means that her job means a lot to her. Working with and spending time around children is definitely not for everyone. It takes a special kind of person with great patience and, as all parents know, though fun it can be very draining! Verbal acknowledgement is an easy and cost-free tool that will go a long way. It’s also fine to acknowledge when your au pair has had a not-so-good day and to reassure her that she can have another crack at it tomorrow. A December bonus or an afternoon off are other great ways of showing your appreciation. The more valued and appreciated she feels, the longer she will happily stay.
6) One more time, communication!
Keep the channels of communication wide open. Talk about issues as and when they arise. Don’t wait for things that could have been dealt with earlier to develop into big problems. Speak to your au pair if something bothers you, and give her a fair chance to correct her mistake. if you are coming home late, let her know in advance. If you will need her over the weekend, let her know in advance. It shows that you care and in return, your au pair will care about your family.