Even if you think that you found the perfect match with your Au Pair/host family it is totally normal that problems come up during the time of the stay. But those shouldn´t overshadow the Au Pair time!
If you need help solving problems, you should read through these problems and solutions if conflicts and disagreements come up. This helps to bring back the peace between Au Pair and host family.
The Au Pair uses the family to get expensive presents; it thieves or leaves the family without their knowledge.
Reason: The Au Pair was never interested in a cultural exchange and wants to enjoy the time and freedoms abroad and being spoiled.
Solution: If you are searching for an Au Pair and a few candidates are short-listed already, you should make a point of getting a good picture of the possible Au Pairs. Check if the Au Pair suits you, if it is qualified and if it really wants to follow the principles of the Au Pair Program. In your Au Pair contract, which Au Pair and host family have to sign, you should regulate all important points. If you take the Au Pair´s contact details, you could trace the Au Pair, if necessary. After the Au Pair´s arrival you shouldn´t leave valuable and important stuff lying around in the house and rather lock it. Even though you always have to provide the Au Pair with a room, meals and pocket money, it isn´t responsible for purchasing anything else. Presents are kind, but be careful, that the Au Pair isn´t using you. Particularly at first you should be cautious.
The family chose an Au Pair and they agree on its stay. Then there is no more feedback or replies, neither over Mail nor over telephone.
Reason: The Au Pair short-termed decided to go to another family or there are other reasons, why it can´t / doesn´t want to travel.
Solution: Such cowardly withdrawals unfortunately happen from time to time. If you are looking for an Au Pair you should always have several candidates or alternatives at hand. The Au Pair has to make it clear, that inviting an Au Pair also means lots of duties and burdens for the host family. If you cancel short-termed, the family has to face difficulties in finances and organization. You should make your mind up in advance, if you will harmonize with the potential family or not. If you´re in doubt, you shouldn´t confirm the Au Pair stay with the host family. If you´re passing confirmation and the host family already prepared everything, you should indeed start your journey without short-termed withdrawals!
The Au Pair suffers under verbal, physical, psychological or sexual harassment or abuse from the host family.
Solution: Neither harassment nor abuse can be justified in any way. The host family doesn´t have the right, to pass the boundaries, the Au Pair sets. If that happens though, you should seek an open conversation firstly. Eventually the family wasn´t aware, that you didn´t feel comfortable with the way they treat you. Even when they´re not understanding, you shouldn´t let yourself be pressured or blackmailed. Nobody except you has any rights on your body or is allowed to extravagate. If the abuses still come up, you should search a new host family und possibly press charges against the responsible persons.
The Au Pair doesn´t get along with her tasks and the pressure.
Reason: The host family expects that the Au Pair takes care of too many tasks and they allow not enough free time.
Solution: In your Au Pair contract you should already write down the exact number of working hours and working steps. The field of duty of an Au Pair is reduced to childcare and easy house chores related to that. If you´re feeling overwhelmed, explicate this in an open conversation with the family. Sometimes the host family isn´t aware, that the mass of work is unreasonable, so that they can change the work plan.
The Au Pair cannot express himself/herself in the foreign language or totally refuses the conversation.
Reason: The Au Pair isn´t proficient in the foreign language. Because it is shy and insecure, it doesn´t dare to talk.
Solution: Motivate your Au Pair to talk. Involve it in your conversations and ask questions directed to the Au Pair. In the first few weeks it is important that you´re speaking slowly and clearly and repeat statements, if necessary. In order to improve its language skills, the Au Pair needs to visit a language school. With time and a lot of practice, the Au Pair will get better and soon you´ll be able to communicate.
The Au Pair is always on the Internet, even when it is working.
Reason: The Au Pair isn´t clear that it needs to concentrate on its tasks during the working hours and shouldn´t be distracted by its smartphone or tablet. Because it misses family and friends, the Au Pair tries to stay in contact with them or it is bored.
Solution: When it is looking after the children the Au Pair should put smartphone, tablet and laptop aside. Talk considerately with the Au Pair about that. It needs to be attentive and responsible with the kids. If necessary make this clear in your Au Pair contract. You can´t influence what the Au Pair does in its free time, but if you support it in finding a good occupation, it probably can abstain from smartphone, tablet and computer. Because always being available on the Internet, doesn´t ease homesickness either.
The Au Pair makes a lot of phone calls, also expensive international ones.
Reason: Because it is homesick and bored, the Au Pair calls family and friends.
Solution: In a conversation with the Au Pair you should make clear, that phone calls abroad should only be made once a week. If it exceeds these amounts, you need to regulate that in the future the Au Pair has to pay for the international calls. The Au Pair has to realize, that homesickness doesn´t fade away and will only grow bigger, if one is always in contact with home. To ease homesickness occupation is very helpful and the host family should assist the Au Pair in finding suitable activities or take it with them to family trips.
In its profile the Au Pair seemed more qualified and suitable, but after arrival it is clear, that the family´s expectations were too high.
Reason: The Au Pair extenuated its profile and maybe gave wrong promises and references. The family hasn´t put enough effort in getting a broad picture of the candidate.
Solution: You should only invite the Au Pair, when you can be sure that the Au Pair is qualified and suitable for your family. Conversations via Skype should be made in each case, if necessary even several times. If you are insecure, let the Au Pair show its passport and references. Give the Au Pair the possibility to talk with the kids, in order to see how it treats them and how the kids react to the foreign person. Talk about all the important aspects before and discuss them. Ask specific questions. Get a precise image of the person behind the profile and make sure, that the Au Pair is aware, what kind of expectations and requirements it has to face. When the Au Pair has false expectations you will be disappointed, too.
The educational methods of the Au Pair are stricter / more liberal than the host families. The educational approach is not like the host family demonstrated and required and the parents never gave permission for specific measures.
Reason: At home the Au Pair got to know different educational methods and therefore has another idea of effective children´s education. The Au Pair doesn´t think that the host parents would like to keep their own educational approach.
Solution: Usually the Au Pair shouldn´t have influence on the educational methods of the host family. The parents decide on their own, which way the kids will be educated. If the Au Pair has an idea how something could be improved, it can address the parents friendly about that. The parents need to know, if they want to include those methods in the kids´ education or not. If you believe that the Au Pair doesn´t stick to your methods and principles, appeal to them and describe your fundamentals once more. Like that the Au Pair will become aware of its mistakes.
The Au Pair has to face homesickness.
Reason: It is normal in this situation for homesickness to come up and that doesn´t necessarily depend on external circumstances. The Au Pair longs for home, because it expected something different.
Solution: The expectations of the Au Pair shouldn´t be too high, and therefore it is important, that Au Pair and host family have an precise impression of the situation. Even if the Au Pair is very content with the host family, homesickness cannot be avoided. In order to get distracted activities with friends and host family can be helpful. You will be able to make experiences you could never make at home. If one always stays in contact with friends and family from home, the homesickness will grow bigger, therefore one should avoid permanent phone calls home. The host family can also help making the Au Pair feel comfortable and should talk with the Au Pair about the homesickness. The Au Pair will realize that the homesickness makes a bad impression and the family will find out, how it can support the Au Pair.
The Au Pair expects some kind of holiday.
Reason: The Au Pair deals with the task halfheartedly and poorly takes care of its duties. It doesn´t want to be a member of the family and goes out on its own.
Solution: Au Pair is an cultural exchange program and no holiday program. You should be clear about that before you decide to become an Au Pair. The Au Pair has duties such as child care and light tasks in the household; in return it will be accepted as a member of the family. The Au Pair should be made aware that its behavior doesn´t meet the program´s requirements. Make sure that the Au Pair feels accepted by the family.
Au Pair and host family can´t find a way to successful communication and don´t trust each other enough to have open conversations.
Reason: The Au Pair isn´t proficient in the language. Neither Au Pair nor host family exert themselves on an open conversation and hold their needs and wishes back.
Solution: Everything that bothers you should be addressed. Problems that aren´t addressed immediately will lead to irresolvable conflicts. Weekly meetings can help, where everyone can openly talk about happenings and experiences of the last week. You should criticize considerately and also pass praise. The one who is criticized should respect the opinion of the other person and try to improve the behavior. In order to build trust to each other, everyone needs to talk openly and don´t have secrets. One should get the possibility to honestly talk about problems and criticism, even if one doesn´t know the language too well.
The Au Pair is downloading and streaming illegal content from the internet.
Reason: The Au Pair isn´t aware about the prosecution in the country.
Solution: Previously the host family should already clarify the consequences of those internet activities. Look for the websites that could be dangerous. If you can´t trust the Au pair anyways, provide the Au Pair with an internet stick, with which it can surf in the internet, so that it can be prosecuted with its own IP-address.
The Au Pair is unhygienic and messy.
Reason: The Au Pair knows this behavior and conditions from home. The new surrounding and the new impression cause the neglect of cleanness and tidiness. It doesn´t realize that these conditions aren´t perceived with pleasure.
Solution: You can regulate min. /max. Shower time in your Au Pair contract. In a conversation you should make clear, that you feel disgusted by the lack of hygiene and cleanness and that the Au Pair´s room needs to be tidy and clean by your standards. You can arrange general principles which the Au Pair should follow. Be careful how you pass your criticism, because the Au pair could feel personally offended.
The Au Pair is going out with friends till late evening or night and doesn´t get enough rest for the following working day.
Reason: The Au Pair shows no sense of duty and wants to experience the stay abroad in its own way.
Solution: Regulate the curfews beforehand. Au Pair and host family would need to make an agreement about that, which also differs between days of work and other days. The host family should be considerate of the Au Pairs desire for action in the foreign country, but the Au Pair should never disregards its task and duties, because the responsibilities towards the kids are more important.
The Au Pair doesn´t have road safety even though it has a driver´s permit.
Reason: The Au Pair owns a driving license, but doesn´t have driving experience. Additionally it is insecure about the unfamiliar traffic in the foreign country.
Solution: With the help of driving lessons or safe driving training in the host country, the Au Pair can slowly get used to the traffic. Explain the specifics of your car and do the first rides together. If you still don´t get the feeling that the Au Pair is confident on the roads, you should prefer public transport and provide the Au Pair with monthly tickets.
The Au Pair cannot deal with the cultural differences. The host family is insecure how to deal with the foreign culture.
Reason: Both Au Pair and host family don´t have an impression about the foreign culture and aren´t prepared. It results in a cultural shock, because they are overwhelmed by the differences and don´t know how to handle them.
Solution: Au Pair and host family should get an impression about customs and morals in the foreign culture, even before the Au Pair arrives, and also respect, that they need to find compromises in some points, because of cultural differences. It is especially the Au pair´s duty to be open to adapt to customs and habits. The Au Pair Program is defined by the cultural exchange and that needs to be accepted. But it is not just all about taking over the different culture, but you should also work on bringing your own culture close. It is important to be understanding toward misunderstandings.
Nobody criticizes anything, but everyone involved seems dissatisfied with the situation.
Reason: Au Pair and host family do not talk openly and honestly with each other and wouldn´t be able to get the impression that somebody isn´t satisfied.
Solution: From the beginning Au Pair and host family should talk about conflicts, misunderstandings and dissatisfactions. If this is procrastinated, bigger problems will evolve, which cannot be solved in the end. If Au Pair and host family arrange weekly meetings, one can get an impression of each other´s problems and experiences throughout the last week.
The Au Pair receives no/ not enough pocket money.
Reason: The host family doesn´t know the pocket money standards for Au Pairs of the country, or isn´t able to pay that amount.
Solution: The amount of money, which the family pays the Au Pair as a small compensation, should be regulated in the Au Pair contract already. Au Pair and host family should agree on that and the way of payment (transfer/ cash, weekly/monthly), moreover on the compensation of extra hours and special services. The amount of pocket money depends on the Au Pair program of the country. The pocket money can therefore vary, but the Au Pair has to receive some money in every case and it cannot be cleared with board and lodge. Of course it can happen that the family omits paying the pocket money on time, and then a friendly reminder should be enough.
The kids have a problem with the new situation and won´t accept the Au Pair as caretaker and family member.
Reason: These new circumstances are hard to process for kids, especially if they have only been looked after by their parents before.
Solution: Even before the Au Pair arrives, the parents should talk with their kids about the new circumstances and the new family member. Family and Au Pair need to understand that the kids won´t trust the Au Pair directly. Give the kids the impression, that you yourself trust the Au Pair. The parents should take the first days after the Au Pair´s arrival off and spend time with Au Pair and kids together. The Au Pair shouldn´t directly look after the kids for a several hours all alone. Support the Au Pair in understanding the characters and peculiarities of the children, give advice, how it should treat the kids, so that they´ll accept it as a confidant.
The work of the Au Pair isn´t effective and it is generally overwhelmed by the new circumstances, tasks and requirements.
Reason: This is probably the first time that the Au Pair is alone abroad for a period of time. The cultural adjustments are difficult. The Au Pair doesn´t know the new tasks and how to handle them.
Solution: The Au Pair needs the first weeks after its arrival to settle in. Au Pair and host family should take time to get to know each other first of all. Ideally, the host family doesn´t have to go to work the first days, so that they can help and advice the Au Pair all day long. The tasks and processes should be explained and demonstrated. A detailed plan of the week is very helpful, especially in the first weeks, even though the Au Pair should only take care of a few tasks at the beginning. If it gets along with those, it can take over more. The host family needs to be patient and understanding, if the Au Pair doesn´t understand everything and has to inquire several times. Try to put yourself in the Au Pair´s shoes and you will understand why the work proceeds slowly at the beginning.
The way of behaving of the Au Pair is unfamiliar to the host family and some methods and procedures weren´t discussed previously.
Reasons: Each family deals with stuff differently and appreciates specific behaviors. The Au Pair isn´t aware of that and therefore behaves the way, it would at home.
Solution: Family rules help to make behavior, actions and important processes clear and regulate them. The Au Pair can apply those to its own behavior and gets to know what the expectations are. Nevertheless you need to consider that some unfamiliar ways of behaving are based on the cultural differences, and therefore you need to pass criticism respectful and considerate.
The Au Pair is overwhelmed by some tasks ,needs a lot of time for them or doesn´t make them right.
Reason: Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. The Au Pair has likes and dislikes, too or it isn´t used with some tasks.
Solution: The host family should be considerate of the strengths and weaknesses of the Au Pair. Maybe the Au Pair cannot iron, but likes to do the grocery shopping, then it makes sense to adjust the working plan that way. That doesn´t mean that the Au Pair has only to do those tasks it is willing to do, but if it is incapable, it is worthwhile to replace that task or at least reduce it. If the weaknesses only come from the lack of knowledge about the working steps, because the Au Pair has never been confronted with a task like that, then the host family should explain and demonstrate everything another time. If necessary write important points down. The Au Pair will need time to get into routine.
The day of the Au Pair is shaped by insecurity and fear of mistakes.
Reason: The criticism of the family is too unfriendly and sharp, so that the Au Pair is intimidated and scared of further mistakes. No one looks out for a kind and considerate contact.
Solution: Kindness and consideration, but also directness and honesty are important for the contact between Au Pair and host family. Criticism shouldn´t be avoided, but doesn´t have to be unfriendly or offensive and praise is often also appropriate. The Au Pair needs to be able to deal with criticism, but insults and false accusations do not belong here.
The whole housecleaning is up to the Au Pair, but it isn´t responsible for childcare.
Reason: The host family looks for a cheap domestic aid. The principles of the Au Pair Program are disobeyed or are unknown. An Au Pair needs to look after the kids and is only responsible for light housework related to childcare.
Solution: The Au Pair contract should regulate what the tasks and working hours of the Au Pair look like. Only if Au Pair and host family agree, the contract should be signed. In some cases the family doesn´t know that the tasks aren´t assigned correctly and the Au Pair is overburdened. The Au Pair needs to make clear, what it expects of the tasks and duties.
The Au Pair suffers from boredom.
Reason: The Au Pair can´t find occupation. Neither does it have friends nor activities or hobbies.
Solution: The Au Pair can organize its free time the way it wants. But sometimes it doesn´t really know how to occupy itself. The host family should help the Au Pair with that. Propose activities; look out for clubs and societies it could become a member of and introduce it to some young adults you know, it could become friends with. In your apartment the Au Pair should have the possibility to entertain itself with books or TV. The Au Pair should be able to join the family to trips and activities.
Au Pair and host family have different imaginations about the distribution of house chores.
Reason: In the host family’s view the Au Pair should take care of more duties in the household, in the Au Pairs view the tasks and duties are overwhelming already.
Solution: Your Au Pair contract should set what duties and responsibilities of the Au Pair look like and there should be an agreement about that. Only if the contract is signed by Au Pair and host family, it has validation. A work plan of the week, which describes tasks and processes in detail can be very helpful and give a great overview. Generally the field of duty of Au Pairs is reduced to childcare and light housework.
The Au Pair has friends over at the host family´s place.
Reason: As it is usual at the Au Pair´s home, it invites guest. The Au Pair doesn´t have in mind that visitors can be very disturbing for the family.
Solution: You should agree whether the Au Pair can have guests in the host family´s house or not, and note it in the Au Pair contract. The Au Pair has to stick to these rules and if it isn´t allowed to have visitors, it needs to meet up with friends somewhere else. In most cases compromises can be made, f.e. visitors are allowed when the family is previously informed or friends, who the parents met already are allowed.