This great list comes courtesy of Belma Bostanci, a former Au Pair who is now an LCC.
BEING PART OF THE FAMILY:
- Spend as much time as you can with your host family! This is most important during your first couple of weeks together. The more of your free time that you spend with your host family, the more comfortable you will become with each other.
- Have dinner with your host family as often as you can. Help out as a family member by asking to help set up or clean up the dishes, and help out in the kitchen. This is a great time to really start to feel like a member of the family.
- Participate in social events and family events with your host family. These mightinclude: outings to the museum, zoo, park, or sporting events. They might also be birthday parties, holidays and special celebrations. You can have fun while bonding with your family, and you’ll also learn a lot about American culture.
- Share your culture with your host family. Talk about your country, teach the family some of your language, teach the kids some of your songs and games, and prepare some food from your country. Your family will love this, and it will make you feel closer to home, especially if you are feeling homesick.
- Enjoy all of the little things throughout the year, don’t focus only on the big things.
- By asking what you can do to help, you are showing the family and kids that you care about them.
- When you go out to dinner with the host family you can still help out as a family member. Even though you are not working, you can make the experience more fun and more enjoyable by keeping the kids entertained, helping out with their food, and keeping up a conversation. Make sure you always thank your host parents for dinner!
- Good hygiene is really important! Make sure you shower regularly.
- Make your bed every day. Keep your room clean and your clothes picked up.
- Keep the bathroom you use tidy and clean it at least once a week.
- Keep the car(s) you use clean and neat. Respect your curfew and mileage limits. Do not bring the car home without gas. No one, for any reason, should be smoking or drinking in the car.
ABOUT YOUR AU PAIR RESPONSIBILITIES:
- Say “Good morning” and smile when you first see your host family and host children. It’s a nice way to start your day!
- Have fun with your work! Try to stay positive, outgoing, and enthusiastic.
- Bond with the children. By showing an interest and asking the children what they like to do, you will get to know them and that will strengthen the bond between you. This will make, both your job and their experience very rewarding.
- Do not ever tell the the host parents, “That’s not my job!” If you feel that the host family is asking you to do more than your duties as an Au Pair, speak with your LCC. Remember, you are there to take care of the children – if the job asked of you relates to the children, chances are it IS your job!
- Make sure that you are ALWAYS on time! This is really important, and applies to starting work, picking up the kids, taking the kids to school and activities, putting the kids to bed, meal times, and your curfew. If you are late a lot, the host parents and the kids will lose trust in you.
- It’s always a good idea to write down reminders for yourself, just in case. This is really good for changes in a normal schedule or upcoming important events.
- When you are working, you need to make sure that you are always working. You need to either be watching the children, or doing childcare- related things. This is the time that the host family is paying you to work, and should be treated like any other job, meaning: no television, no hanging out in your room, no showering, no personal errands, no letter or e-mail writing, no personal phone calls, no playing on the computer/internet. You wouldn’t be able to do these things at any other job, and this job should be treated no differently.
- VERY IMPORTANT: Never leave the kids alone! Especially outside, in the bathroom, in the car, or near a lake or a pool.
- Never use the words “stupid” or “hate.” These words are very powerful, and if used incorrectly can offend and hurt your host family and the kids.
- Make sure that you never compare you situation with your host family to another Au Pair and his/her host family. Each family is different, and while some things may seem better, a lot of things are not.
- Never answer the door to anyone you do not know unless your host parents have told you specifically ahead of time.
ABOUT YOUR HOST CHILDREN
- Make sure you can see your kids at all times. If you can’t see them, they are too far away from you.
- The most important part of your job as an Au Pair is to KEEP THE KIDS SAFE!
- Play! Have fun! The best part about being an Au Pair is getting to get involved and play with the kids. Have fun, be silly, be creative and playful! The kids will love it, and you will have a great time as well! You should spend more time playing and getting involved with the kids doing activities or games then you do watching television with the children.
- Keep in mind that American children will be different than the children in your home country.
- Just like kids from your home country, kids here are not perfect. They will have bad days, they will make mistakes, and they will do the wrong thing from time to time. Make sure you remember that they are the kids and you are the adult. Don’t argue back at them or yell at them, but react to them as an adult.
- Do not take things the kids may say or do personally because when kids are mad they will say or do things that they do not mean. Try to develop a “thick skin.”
- Be sensitive to the kids; they love you whether you are “on” or “off” working hours.
- Always encourage your host kids with school, sports, with everything! It will help them stay positive and have good self-esteem.
- Try to attend as many important events the kids have that you can. If you are unable to go, always ask about them. For example: How was the soccer game? Did your team win? How did you play?
- You are the “eyes and ears” for the host parents. You may see a behavior change with the kids a lot sooner than the host parents are able to. Make sure you tell your host family if you see something different or of concern. Also, you will be the one to hear what the kids say when they come home from school, and to hear what they need for the next day. Make sure you tell the host family.
- Be really careful that you do not favor one child over the other(s); treat all the kids the same.
ABOUT YOUR HOST PARENTS:
- Host parents are usually very busy, which is why they decided to have you help out! Don’t be offended if they come home from work tired, upset, or don’t talk with you as much as you’d like. Just like you, they need a little time to unwind after a long and hard day.
- When your host parent is in a bad mood, remember that it does not mean that it is your fault. Sometimes people just get in bad moods, especially after a stressful day at work.
- Always make time to tell your host parents about your day with the kids.
- If you have questions about your work or your responsibilities with the kids, ask your host parents! Even if they seem like silly questions, it is better to ask than to make a mistake.
- Communicate! Sometimes this can be really hard, but this is the best way to solve problems early and for good. If you don’t communicate with your host family, problems can grow and get out of hand until they become bigger problems that will not go away. If you need help communicating with your family, ask your LCC for some tips.
- Always say “Thank you!” This is a huge part of the American culture. Make sure you say “Thank you” for dinners, gifts, vacations, etc.
- It is never a good idea to tell your host parents that you disagree with the way they are raising their children. The way American families raise their kids may be very different than what you are used to. If you have concerns, you can express them, but be sure not to criticize or make hurtful comments. You can sit down with your host parents and have a conversation about how things are different here. Never tell your host parents they should be doing something differently with their children, home, or life.
- Do not talk with other Au Pairs or you friends and family about your host family’s private life. Things in your host family need to stay in the host family. Also, do not tell your host family about things other Au Pairs tell you about their host families.
- Do not call your host parents at work unless it is an emergency or they have specifically asked you to do so.
ABOUT YOUR HOST PARENTS HOUSE – YOUR HOME:
- You should always leave the house the same way that it was when you entered it. Clean up after yourself and the kids throughout the day. Put things away in the same place that you got them from.
- This is your house too! Act like a family member, in the same way you would in your own family. For example, you might bring in the mail, take out the garbage, bring in empty garbage cans from the street… small things that are helpful on a day-to-day basis.
- Lock the doors when you come home. Discuss with your host family what they would like you to do if you are the last one home at the end of the day/late at night. For example, turn off the lights.
- Do not give out any information about yourself, your family, or your home, especially to strangers, unless you have your host family’s permission.
- Do not visit inappropriate websites. Your host parents will be able to see what websites you go to.
- Don’t download anything on to the computer without asking your host family first. It is not your computer, and you might accidentally damage it.
- If you have an accident or spill something, please tell your host parents immediately. They can help you remove the stain. If stains are not taken care of right away, they usually become permanent.
- Do not leave empty dishes or glasses in your room. Any leftover food or drinks need to be disposed of immediately to prevent bugs or mice from coming into your room!
- Always close your windows when you leave the house in case it rains.
- Turn off the TV, stereo, lights, curling irons, water, etc. when you are not in a room. These things can get really expensive if left on unnecessarily.
(Tips compiled by LCCs Belma Bostanci and Kathleen Lonergan)