So, after all the wait and looking forward to your au pair gap year abroad you have now arrived and are settling in with the family! The first month is very exciting (nerve wracking sometimes!); you are getting to know your host family, getting to know your host children, learning the family routines and how things work in the family and in the home. In addition, you are getting used to the idea of being away from your home, family and friends – it’s a lot! After a few weeks it’s time to combine all this with finding some local friends, also you may wish to sign up for a local language school too.
One of the most important things as an au pair is to bond with your host children. Some children are more open than others, it is true, but children are fundamentally all very similar, they all like to have a special friend. So to achieve a good bond with the children you need to be their friend, as well as the person in charge. Children love to have fun and they want to have fun with you! You can ask them what they like doing (maybe jumping on their trampoline) and join in this activity with them. They will love that! It’s also great if you can suggest some fun activities which they have not done before, maybe something you really like, or something which is popular with children in your home country. It’s worth bearing in mind that you are probably considerably younger than the child’s parents and are more ‘playful’ than the host parents – here is where you have a real advantage over the child’s parents! Always check first with the parents if the activity is very different or risky in any way.
Be responsible at all times with the children, but do have fun and be talkative with them, as that is so important and will make them like/ love you. Show an interest in them. Ask them questions about their day, what they like, what they think of this or that… most children love to talk! Listen to their answers and they will feel loved and valued by you. Don’t expect the bond to happen overnight, it cannot, but the harder you work at it the faster it will happen. Be responsible, interested, kind, fun and fair and you will win their hearts! Children really are quite simple in this respect. If you need some help in developing a good relationship with the child/children then ask the parents for some ideas on how to achieve it – they will be happy that you are motivated and keen to try and that it matters to you. You can also find some resources on-line. We can help you with those resources, just ask!
If you sincerely have the feeling that the children are actively trying not to bond with you, then do not take this personally. Keep the smile on your face and keep consistently reaching out to them and trying your best to make things fun and happy, usually their affection can be won, it’s just a matter of time. If a child is being deliberately mean to you, do remember that they don’t understand how this will make you feel and they might not even mean what they are saying – 5 minutes later then may say how much they like you! However you can explain to them calmly that when they do this or say that it makes you feel really sad. This is an emotion that children can relate to. Maybe illustrate it by asking them how they might feel if someone said the same to them… If you get the impression that the child does not like ‘you’ remember that they do not actually know you, so do not take it to heart! Some children who are ‘difficult’ may be acting that way because they’d really rather the au pair left, and that Mummy or Daddy can look after them instead. This is a normal feeling, but it is unlikely that if you were to leave that the parents would stop work etc. to focus 100% on the child. Issues like this need to be discussed with the parents and managed carefully. At any time however, you can ask us for advice.
Hopefully this has given you a little perspective on how the first month can be as an au pair and how what you can do. I think most au pairs have ups and downs in the first month, the REAL fun starts after a few more weeks. In a few weeks’ time you will have found some friends and will be getting out and exploring your new area and sharing your au pair life (trials and tribulations) with other au pairs who are going through the same or similar experience. These are likely to become friends for life! In a few weeks’ you will have bonded more with your host child/children and with the family. It just gets better and better from here on! You might not believe it right now, but for most au pairs it is VERY hard to leave at the end of the au pair year.
Good luck everyone! Bonne chance! Viel Glück! Held og lykke! sok szerencsét! In bocca al lupo! Buena suerte!
удачи-udachi! Sterkte! Lykke til! Lycka till!