Host parents have been wondering about continuing with Au Pair caregivers as their children become teenagers.
While we discussed this question a while ago, the children of many of the regular and newer members of the community have gotten older, and so the topic is newly hot.
[See the earlier posts:
Beyond the Chauffeur: Benefits of Au Pairs when your kids are teens (2009)
Integrating an Au Pair when your household has an Older Teen (2010)
Choosing an Au Pair for Teens (2009)]
Since this blog is about au pairs and au pair relationships, we won’t be focusing on other childcare options (apologies to BusyMom). But, we can talk in more detail about:
1. How to choose an au pair for teenagers
2. Whether and how your criteria change as you look for an au pair for teenagers
3. How you as a host parent can help to facilitate the relationship between a teen and a not-that-much-older-than-teen au pair.
For Teenage Host Children, Au Pairs Do More Than Drive
“I’m more worried that the Au Pair will THINK she is just a driver. I want her to be an ‘Au Pair to teens’. Is this possible?”
Host Mom ShouldBeWorking outlined a few of the particular things she wants from an au pair now that her kids are tw/eens:
- Help with organizing and supervising homework, tracking assignments, and showing enthusiasm for learning
- Being an ‘older sibling’-like confidant, advisor, and role model
- Support with getting kids to do their chores, clean up their stuff, and contribute to the family
Finding an Au Pair for Teens Might Be Challenging
When Au Pairs think about ‘host children’, they usually imagine children (under 11) and not tweens and teens. Even the literature from agencies shows mostly toddlers and kindergarteners. Sure, those are the ages of most host kids, but there are also older host children too. But how do you screen for an au pair who’s willing to take on relationships with these older children?
After CDAuPair introduced herself as an Au Pair caring for teenagers, ShouldBeWorking asked
- How did your matching work? Was matching with a teen-child family initially not on your radar, or were you at all disappointed, or how did you view matching with such a family?
- Have you had any problems with moody teen behavior and how do your HPs support you with that? Do you have younger siblings and did that make it easier because you knew the story?
- How do you connect initially with teen host kids? Do they resist?
Two of my host kids are teens, and I am definitely more than just a cook/ driver to them. I help with homework and projects, talk to them about their friends and even their crushes.
Sometimes, I am able to give them the kind of advice that usually falls on deaf ears when coming from parents, even though we say the same stuff. According to my teens, its because I am young and cool and “know stuff”. Haha :)
With teens, it might be better to get a slightly older au pair, who is not still a teenager at heart herself. Also, someone who has experience with older kids (tutoring, youth leader, coaching etc) might be better at connecting with teens than those who only have experience with younger kids.
I wasn’t planning on matching with a family with teens, it just worked out that way that the best family for me happened to have them. I don’t have younger siblings, but I do have experience part time au pairing two very “difficult” (moody, rebelious, etc) teens (separate families, both had younger siblings too), so I knew what I was possibly signing up for.
I wasn’t disappointed this family had teens, I knew it would be a good challenge and that I have had sucess in the past in bonding with teens.
In terms of teen behaviour, my one teen has special needs, and functions at an emotionally much younger age, so no teenage drama yet. As for the other one, I have had to deal with some mood issues now and then, but not much more. I think the fact that we have similar interests and hobbies has helped tremendously with bonding. I think she likes the fact that I’m clued up about, and interested in, the things she loves to do. It also helps that the teens I have worked with were all girls. I’m not sure if it would have been as easy for me to bond with teenage boys.
In previous jobs I have dealt with much worse, such as finding out about really bad behaviour and having to tell the parents while not losing the teens’ trust and respect. Also, some teenagers can be very manipulative when they can get away with it, so you need someone who doesn’t just take the easy way of being their “friend” and letting them get away with everything. It can be really difficult, which is why I think an older au pair might be better at it. In both old jobs, I didn’t get much support from the parents, which was hard. My current host parents are very supportive though.
Other Au Pairs caring for kids 11 years or older, care to share your experience?
Host parents who’ve had successes (or not-such-successes) with the host teen – Au Pair relationship, any insights?
We’d love to hear from you!
See also: Angry 11 yr old, Avoidant Parents- what’s an au pair to do? (2011)
Image: Monster Figure Puppet Set, by raindropstops available for purchase on Etsy