Remember when au pairs arrive, they are there to help but also to be treated warmly as members of the family. They are usually untrained and therefore need to be taught how you like everything to be done. This is time consuming in the first few weeks but will pay dividends later. Often this needs reinforcing if their English is not good. Sometimes au pairs also need to be shown how to play with the children. Teach them what the children like doing. As far as disciplining the children goes, make sure au pairs know your standards and what you want them to do when you are not there.
Good communication with your au pairs is key to getting the best from them. You will find that taking time to sit down and talk at regular intervals particularly in the first few months will benefit the working relationship. It will hopefully draw attention to any difficulties before they become big problems. It is important to show a genuine concern for their well being.
Try to give positive feedback wherever you can and tell au pairs what they are doing well before you deal with any problems or criticisms. Criticisms are often painful, therefore try to be much more generous with praise to achieve a balance. Some people find these 'chats' with au pairs easier than others. For many it may help to use a questionnaire (such as the one below) for guidance on what to discuss and it may throw up problems that au pairs have that you had no idea about.
Part 1 The Au Pair
1. How is your bedroom?
- Is it warm enough?
- Do you have enough privacy?
- Are the children coming in without asking?
2. Are you homesick at all?
- Is there anything the family can do to help?
3. How is the work?
- Is the job what you expected?
- Are the working hours what was agreed?
4. How do you feel you are getting on with the family?
- How do you think you are getting on with the children?
- Do you have any difficulties looking after the children? If so can we help?
- Are we making you feel welcome and part of the family?
5. Do you have any difficulties with the light housework, ironing and kitchen help?
6. How is your social life going so far?
- Have you made some friends?
- Have you tried the web search on au pair friends.com?
7. How are the language classes going?
- Have you met any au pairs through them?
8. Are you happy using local transport?
- Any problems with bike, bus, trains or the Underground?
9. Any health problems?
- Do you need to register with a doctor?
10. Do you have enough time to yourself away from the family?
11. How is the food?
- Are you getting enough to eat?
- How are the mealtimes?
12. Are there any house rules you are unhappy about?
13. Do you have any other worries?
Part 2- For the host family (to discuss with au pair)
1. How well do you feel the au pair has settled?
- How is the au pair getting on with the family?
- Has the au pair bonded with the children?
- Have the children bonded with the au pair?
- Are there any particular difficulties with the children?
2. How is the au pair's help in the kitchen?
3. How is the au pair's house work?
4. How is the au pair's ironing?
5. Are you having enough privacy - time with just the family when the au pair is not there?
6. How are meal times working out?
7. Any problems with the telephone?
8. Any problems with the au pair using the car?
9. Any problems with the au pair's social life?
10. Any holiday plans for the family?