“It’s not you, it’s me.”
if there is one time we want an au pair to appear somewhat self-focused, it’s when he or she is explaining to host kids that they are going into rematch.
When an au pair says goodbye to host children, the AP should offer an explanation that puts responsibility solely on the Au Pair and/or some unchanging/unchangeable feature of the situation.
For example, “The drivers in this part of the US are too crazy, and I need to move to a family that doesn’t need their au pair to drive.”
No matter what the “real” truth is, the explanation to the host child should be something like:
“AP is going to be leaving for another family/another location/going home because s/he needs to find a different adventure. This adventure isn’t quite working out for her/him. The hard part about going to another family/place/home will be saying goodbye to you children, so let’s focus on what we enjoyed about AP and wish her/him well.”
You don’t want to ever set it up that a rematch is “the child’s fault”, unless the child is old enough to understand and the child is indeed responsible (such as when a child is willfully cruel and parents need to hold the child accountable).
Even though you might not want to explain the whole truth to your children, you do want to offer something. This is because when children aren’t given a compelling reason for why something might be happening in their lives, they tend to turn to themselves as the cause. If you offer no explanation, and they are sad at all, they might blame themselves when they shouldn’t. You want to create as a healthy a dynamic as possible, which means presenting the departure as a ‘no fault’ situation.
If the host kids are old enough to understand, and there are life lessons to be learned, sure go ahead and offer something closer to the truth. You might say:
“AP seems more interested in socializing at night, so she isn’t able to give us the kind of energy we need.” Or, “It turns out that he didn’t understand what it meant to live in a city, and he made the wrong choice of location. He’s learning about himself, and we should encourage him to grow as a person.”
I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes (just like you did when I insisted upon good phone manners), but I’ve really found that taking the high road here is *always* the right choice.
When an au pair and host family go into rematch, it’s the chance for you as a parent to offer an important life lesson:
We all make mistakes, we try to correct them, and if we can’t we cut our losses and move on to the next options with optimism.
Here’s a specific example of an awkward rematch situation, from Angry in California. What advice can we offer her?
I am currently undergoing my first rematch situation- something I should have initiated three months ago. (I’m embarrassed to say she’s been with us six months.) After three months of issues with an au pair who is condescending, sometimes rude and has an inflated sense of entitlement, we finally pulled the plug. The actual conversation went smoothly enough with all of us in agreement that it just wasn’t working out.
Three days after that conversation, she took the car without permission while we were at a family outing. (The typical rule is to ask to use a car that only she generally uses.) Our rule is really just a matter of safety as we like know 1) where the car will be and 2) would like to know when we may expect her back for her own safety. I would have let her use the car, I just think she should ask first via a quick text or phone call.
In any case, my unhappiness that she unilaterally took the car (yet another symptom of her sense of entitlement) was met with remarkable sarcasm and attitude.
We were planning on having her work for the next two weeks until she matched. However, I guess my not so gentle reminder of the house rules re: car use sent her into a tailspin and she now wants to leave immediately. Mind you, this was never communicated to me, rather she contacted the LCC and told her she wants out. (I suppose yet another indicator of the sense of entitlement).
I am so angry and disappointed (partly at myself). But, most importantly, I am concerned about how to explain this quick dash out the door to my kids, who genuinely seem to like her.
This is our second au pair, our first stayed with us nearly two years, and my older child still asks where she went-even though we parted on good terms. It seems too hard to help them understand that her departure is not something they did. We are basically left in a lurch but I don’t want someone who is brooding and upset around my kids either. So, despite the unexpected hardship, I am inclined to show her the door ASAP in the interest of household harmony.
Any suggestions on how these really icky transitions can be explained to really sensitive kids?
Her Next Adventure”: Telling your kids that your Au Pair is leaving
Image: It’s not you… All rights reserved by tad carpenter Buy his prints on Flickr