Top tips for Settling in Au Pairs

Top tips for settling in - Living room

Once you have been allocated an au pair (usually by an agency), write or email to him/her, sending photos of your family, or even pictures that your children have drawn. Establish friendly lines of communication at the outset.

Make the au pair's room as welcoming as possible. Choose some interesting books or magazines to put on the bedside table. At the very least, ensure that there is a working radio. Many parents provide a television, but make it clear that the television does not mean that you do not expect the au pair to lie low in the bedroom at all times.

Mark the au pair's birthday on the family calendar.

Get the children to make a 'Welcome' poster and put it on the bedroom door.

At the beginning give the au pair plenty of time. It's a disorientating experience arriving in a new country, possibly with limited English. Allow a few days for unpacking and settling in before domestic duties really begin.

Take time at the outset to show the au pair the neighbourhood. Take the au pair around the supermarket, show him/her the library, post office, bank, kindergarten, sports club, park or adventure playground.

Sit the au pair down and explain exactly what chores and responsibilities you expect. It might help if you draft a simple housework timetable (Monday: hoovering; Tuesday: dusting; Wednesday; take the rubbish out and ironing etc.), Don't make the list of tasks too daunting.

Explain you family's basic timetable, and make it clear at the very beginning the family time that you would like to share with the au pair. You may, for example, want to eat with the au pair on weekday evenings, but not at the weekend. You might want time alone with your husband after dinner. All of this must be made clear.

Your children's timetable must also be made absolutely explicit. Again, it might help to write a weekly calendar, outlining times that children need to be picked up, taken to music lessons, sports clubs etc.

Take the instruction stage very slowly, and check that you are being  understood. Often non-native speakers will mask their lack of comprehension with nods and affirmatives.

Be prepared for homesickness. Many au pairs are very young and this is their first protracted stay in a foreign country, away from home. Be aware that they will want to talk to their parents on the phone, and make it clear when they're allowed to use the phone, and if there are time limits (beware, many host families find themselves running up huge phone bills).

You might consider, if possible, setting up a skype account on your computer so that the au pair can chat freely with his/her parents. Alternatively, you could give the au pair access to your computer for emailing.

Tolerate food faddishness (at the beginning). The au pair may find your food alien and unappetising, or at the very least, regard it with caution. Explain politely that this is what the family eats, and that you are not able to prepare separate food for the au pair. If rejection of the family food continues, you may have to make the au pair responsible for - at  least some of the time - preparing their own food.

Keep a close eye on your children. The au pair is a stranger in their home and they might begin to play up, or test the limits of the au pair's tolerance. Nip any bad behaviour in the bud, monitor them closely, and talk to them about their concerns. Operate a zero tolerance policy when it comes to poking fun at the au pair's language skills.

Keep an eagle eye open for any signs of distress from your children - it is absolutely vital that they are relaxed and comfortable with your au pair.

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