I just welcomed my 11th au pair just over a week ago and spent the weekend helping to orient her to our home, family and community. It is an exciting time for everyone but can also be exhausting so here are 10 tips I have for other families going through a similar process.
Keep in mind, it is important to be realistic with yourself, your family and your au pair about expectations for the first couple of days and recognize that you are all just starting the orienting process. You won’t be able to cram it all in and expect the best results. The more items you can put in writing as a support to ongoing conversations the better.
#1 Get to know her and allow her to get to know your family. Don’t plan big events the first weekend where she will have to get to know a lot of people but do spend time together learning about one another.
#2 Help make her feel welcome and show her how she can get involved with your family. When in doubt at the beginning, we include our au pair as much as possible in family activities until she makes friends and/or you or she decides she doesn’t wish to participate.
#3 Share critical information your au pair needs in the first week – where the children will go (activities, school, camp etc), her schedule as well as the kids for the week (in writing), things the kids like to eat, and strategies for being successful with the kids (i.e. the kids have a hard time leaving without any notice and will put up a fight. A good way to avoid this is to give them a 10 minute warning and then 5 minute warning. At 2 minutes, say lets get our shoes on it is time to leave.)
#4 Get a map of your community and mark the important place she will go. Show her/drive her around your community on day one and have her bring her map with her. After day one, talk about where you are going and have her drive there. It’s good practice for her driving and learning the community and will help give you confidence in her ability to get around after the first few days.
#5 Connect her to other au pairs. If she doesn’t know anyone yet in your community, reach out to your LCC and help get her connected. Going for coffee is empowering and an important step in connecting with others.
#6 Show her what you want her to do – don’t just tell her. Do a dry run on a typical day from soup to nuts so she sees how you want her to do it and can take it from there.
#7 Share with her some of the reasons why you chose her as your au pair. This helps her to feel more confident and connected to you and your family.
#8 Ask her what kinds of foods she likes to eat. If it is something outside of what your family might normally eat, see if you can incorporate something from her culture/home to make her feel at home even far from home.
#9 Personalizing her room. Ask her if there is anything needed – blankets, pillows, etc. I also put a welcome basket or flowers and a picture drawn by the kids to make her feel welcome.
#10 Talk about things she wishes to accomplish or see in her year and then help her plan how and when to do them.
What tips do you have welcoming someone new into your home?