Days as an au pair can be tough and sometimes there are problems that occur and you just don't know what you can do to avoid or solve them.
Especially when different personalities meet they have to get to know each other first. In the first weeks it might be hard to tell how the other one is feeling or what they want to express with a certain tone of voice or sentence. For that reason it is important to talk about issues. All the issues that are connectde to the timetable or duties of the au pair should be discussed before the stay and both parties should agrre on them.
Communication is everything
Wrong expectations and hopes might lead to disappointment and this will later lead to problem and conflicts. It is important to talk about stuff. Don't just sit around and take a bath in your frustration! Talk! Get an impression of what the other side wants and expects.
The first step to make sure you have talked about important matters is the contract between you and the host family. Both parties should sign it and therewith show an agreement on everything that is stated in it. You can find an example of the contract on AuPair.com.
The new situation is very unusual and therefore it needs time and space for you to settle in. A new country, a new culture, new duties and responsibilities - that is a lot to process and for the host family these circumstances might be new too.
There are a lot of points that can induce problems:
- difficulties in language The foreign language competence of the Au Pair is not sufficient, so that communicating is difficult and leads to misunderstandings.
- Settling-in-period The Au Pair, but also the host family, need time to adjust to the new circumstances. The Au Pair has a lot of questions and isn't familiar with the processes yet.
- cultural adjustment One slowly needs to approach the new culture with its rules and manners, in order to adapt to it step by step
- Arguments and misapprehensions according to duties, principles etc.: The Au Pair doesn't pursue its tasks the way the family would expect it, due to lack of knowledge and experience.
- Overload The Au Pair cannot manage the tasks and duties in household and childcare and is overworked.
- Uncertainties because tasks aren't exactly defined and the procedures have never been explained
- Mistrust Host Family and Au Pain can't trust each other, because they aren't honest or decisions are made without joint knowledge.
How to avoid arguments
The host family should:
- talk with the children about the upcoming changes with an au pair
- accept the au pair's difficulties with the language and keep in mind to talk slowly and clearly
- allow a settling-in-period at the beginning
- determine rules of the family, so that one has guidelines for everyday life together
- encourage direct and sincere conversations and discussion, not only when conflicts occur
- demonstrate the interaction and behavior with the children and make clear, which educational methods are applied and how the education by the standards of the parents look like
- not give the au pair too many house chores
- stick to the regulations of the au pair program concerning working hours and freetime
- create an exact plan of the week, in which all of the tasks are described in detail
- be interested and open towards the culture and the habits of the Au Pair
- be considerate and open-minded
The Au Pair should:
- be patient
- act with concern about the family and their needs
- hold back their habits and customs in order to adapt to the new culture
- ask directly, if there are any misapprehensions and uncertainties
- be clarified about the education of the children by the host parents and follow their instructions and regulations
- consider the requirements and demands of the family when you're working, but suggestions for improvement are welcome, too.
- talk with the host family about difficulties and also about your feelings and emotions: every little thing that results in discomfort should be addressed immediately
- always be open and sincere, because honesty leads to trust
- not neglect tasks and duties
- respect the privacy of others
- make agreements and decisions with the family
- use the meetings, the family sets up once a week, to pass criticism and praise
"Only the ones, who are HONEST and OPEN can expect trust!"
To pass on criticism correctly, you should consider the following advices:
- Concrete phrasings and examples (references to specific situations) help to make the make the criticism clear
- The criticism should include “I”- perspectives
- The qualities that result in criticism, need to be described and shouldn't be judged
- The criticism addresses the behavior and not the person
- Objectivity and positivity make statements credible, even if wishes are addressed
- don't forget praise
Moreover, how to handle criticism is important. You need to practice objectivity and attention, if somebody passes criticism on to you. You need to allow them to finish their speech. If you do not see yourself in the position to improve your behavior, you should work on a compromise.
Rejecting criticism is okay, nonetheless it needs to be passed with objectivity and reasons. And if the criticism helped you to improve, you can thank the critic for that.
In order to have an effective conversation you need to consider the following points:
- attention while listening
- no long monologues
- everyone should have the same amount of talking time
- no negative attitude towards the conversational partner
To quit the stay and dissolve the relationship should be the very last consequence. In conversations and discussions you should try to find compromises and solutions.
This post is also available in: German