Halloween Party Safety Concerns for my Au Pair

by cv harquail on October 28, 2010

Halloween is a favorite holiday of… just about everyone.

I think it has become a quintessential American experience that every Au Pair should get involved in. But how should they get involved? Handing out candy at the house? Taking your kids out to trick or treat? Helping to make costumes? Or getting involved in the increasingly crazy young-adults-in-trashy-costumes scene?

Here’s a request from OB Host Mom:

My Au Pair just asked me if we NEED her this weekend (Halloween weekend) because she has been invited to go to Santa Barbara for the weekend.

I don’t know if everyone is aware, but Isla Vista/UCSB is a massive, drunken party over Halloween that can attract 30K people to the area. I know, because when I was 20, I took the long ride there to visit my BFF and spent a lot of it enjoying the “scene (hangovers and all)”.


The truth is we don’t NEED her this weekend. We asked her if she wanted to join us at the school carnival on Sat and invited her to go Trick or Treating with us on Sun … mostly to enjoy the kids and the holiday together. But I had encouraged her to go out in the evenings to check out the local activities and check out the crazy costumes one sees around town.

Here’s my dilemma:

My parental instinct is to say “you really shouldn’t go because it’s unsafe, there will be tons of underage drinking (she’s only 19), and the guys there were scumbags (albeit 20 years ago) who will really try to take advantage of you girls which increases the risk of something bad happening).”

The side of me that wants her to enjoy her time here as a young adult says “that’s a great opportunity (she does have an apartment to stay at with other AP’s — another host family has a place there), go for it, but be very careful of slimy guys and make sure you are back healthy to work on Monday”.

The family side of me thinks “But, Halloween is part of the ‘cultural exchange’ we like to have with our AP’s and you’ll miss Trick or Treating with us (least solid argument)”.

Given that Halloween is on the weekend this year, I suspect it will take much longer than the usual time to get from our town to SB, they might not arrive until after midnight on Friday, but the parties will probably still be in full force at that time. She promises they will take cabs around and be aware of drunk drivers to stay away from.

What should I say to my Au Pair about her Halloween plans?

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What other advice do you have for OB Mom?

See also:
9 Ways to Celebrate Halloween with your Au Pair
In Loco Parentis? Your Parental Responsibilities when your AP’s behavior challenges your values
Image: Drink != fly AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³


Ariel October 28, 2010 at 2:07 pm

She is an adult- let her go. Give her the advice she needs in case of an emergency (call you, call 911, call someone) let her know that if she makes a mistake you will pick her up and bring her home void of judgement (crucial if you actually want her to call you) and, finally, make sure she is informed that alcohol intoxication takes time not food to leave the body, don’t take unfamiliar drugs from anyone, don’t take any familiar drugs from unfamiliar people, and the human ear can be removed with 7 pounds of force- go for that or the eyes if attacked as they are the best bet (not the balls) to stopping an attack and getting away. Let her know you are telling her this to help her be safe, then let her go. You survived, she will too.

Aupairgal October 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm

I agree with Ariel. I also don’t think it is a host parents job to “protect” an aupair. They are adults and have a right to choose to do things that others might concider unsafe(within legal boundaries). I am also of the opinion that protecting someone from the “evils” of the world does not help them at all, but rather decreases their potential arsenal of experience.
This mother herself knows from experience what the case is and not because someone told her. It would be utterly hypocritical to say no. A warning about the possibilites are in fair order, but a direct forbidding I would concider out of line. Unless the nonpermittance of this was explicitely discussed during the matching process, it would be unfair to just say no on a basis of safety.

Calif Mom October 29, 2010 at 9:06 am

I agree; trying to control people usually fails. I had plenty of opportunities to get into trouble as a young person, but didn’t make any major gaffes. I do give my parents credit for this: my mom was a lousy cook, but she generally stayed out of “my stuff”. My parents gave us kids the morals and good sense to make our own decisions. They had several kids, and we all managed to find our ways without too many big mistakes. I’d call that good (enough) parenting.

Likewise for APs–a big part of our current problems result from our AP’s mom being a total control freak and domineering person. You cannot actually control another person, but you can give them information and point out possible consequences.

But you can’t make them drink! :-) (horse to water metaphor; not Halloween party allusion)

Calif Mom October 28, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Unless things have changed a lot in those same 20 years, IV doesn’t really HAVE taxis for them to rely on for transport, and I doubt the buses are very frequent. They need a designated driver if the house they will be staying at is not staying in IV itself.

(If you really don’t want her to go, maybe show her news clips from the wacko who drove through the crowd of people there several years back, and the subsequent criminal trial.)

How I handle situations like these is to clearly describe the scene that she will be getting into, and let her make up her mind with adequate information. And yes, she absolutely must be able to work while providing an adequate standard of care to your kids on Monday, or she forfeits a vacation day.

lalamama October 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Having graduated from UCSB and been a Resident Assistant in a college dorm in Isla Vista (IV) 15 years ago, I would be very reluctant to support an AP’s desire to go there (especially an underage one). Knowing she is not 21, and knowing (as Calif Mom said) there aren’t taxis available in IV (not even sure they would/could try to get anywhere near the insanity that is IV at Halloween), you should probably sit down with her and be clear about why you don’t support this trip. How is she getting there and where would she be staying? If it’s your car, you certainly have a right to say no. If she doesn’t have somewhere to stay, I would be even more concerned. Because thousands of people converge on IV at Halloween, the dorms become strict and only allow residents in. You certainly don’t want her crashing at some Frat House, or worse yet, on the street.

My last comment is that I recently went to Las Vegas. As much as I wanted to take our very responsible 19-year old AP, I could not, in my own good judgement, knowing we would be spending time in bars and casinos where she was not legally allowed.

I don’t envy you! :( Best of luck!

franzi October 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm

sit down with your AP, state your concerns and experiences, and then allow her to have the weekend off.
if she wants to go to IV set ground rules that include
– calling you, or 911 when there is a problem or when she thinks she is in an unsafe situation
– have a designated driver
– you want the phone numbers of the APs she will be with and of the host family, just to be sure if she doesn’t answer her phone (b/c she lost it or whatever) you can reach her
– she should ALWAYS watch her drink and cover it with her hands when she is not actually drinking – parties like these are bound to have creeps out there with those knockout drops
– she needs to work on monday and give 100% – if you can party you can work. emphasize that you believe she is mature enough to understand that

it’s sad that she doesn’t want to spend halloween with your family. when i was an AP i managed to go trick or treat with the kids and then party at night downtown but i didn’t have much of a commute. maybe she can at least be part of some pumpkin carving? or help the kids in a costume pre-run?

cv harquail October 29, 2010 at 8:43 am

Franzi, thanks for these specific suggestions. This is a great list, and reasonable.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 28, 2010 at 9:53 pm

We also live in a “party central” zone, and here’s what I encourage APs to do – go trick or treating – because the kid aspect is a cultural experience itself. In our community, one can generally witness enough of the kid experience by 7 pm, and still have plenty of time to get ready to head into town.

We actively encourage our APs to experience the wild party that Halloween becomes – with friends. When we have thought drinking was an issue, we warned our APs not to accept drinks they didn’t purchase themselves (the whole date rape drug issue), and to stay with a friend. Our city’s Halloween parties tend to spill into the streets, and I encourage our APs to witness them as a cultural experience. (After Halloween is second only to Christmas now…)

My advice, sit her down and warn her that while it’s a fantastic fun time, it’s also a dangerous time, and if she prepares herself, she will remain safe.

Franzi is right to address work in your discussion as well. The last thing you want/need as a HP is an AP with a hangover on Monday. Alas, our AP has to work a full-day on Monday – my kids will be home from school in sugar shock (although DH doesn’t know that I’m letting her start later than usual, so she can have a bit of a rest). My AP doesn’t drink, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be exhausted.

cv harquail October 29, 2010 at 8:45 am

This is proof positive that you’d want to be TACL’s au pair: “We actively encourage our APs to experience the wild party that Halloween becomes”. Who wouldn’t be down with that?! ;-)

Taking a Computer Lunch October 29, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Only young women willing to change diapers in a child who menstruates – life with The Camels is not for sissies.

OB Mom October 29, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Thanks for the input from all. I basically did what was recommended (and had intended to all along).

I told her that, honestly, I just want her to be safe and careful. I passed on the info about no taxis (she’s staying at an apartment with 8 girls that is owned by the family of another AP). Their apartment is apparently 5 min walk from “One” of the universities where there are lots of parties. I warned her about the potential risks of accepting drinks, being careful, getting home safe. I reminded her that she does have to work on Monday, so come back early on Sunday.

I did also tell her that I know all of this from personal experience so don’t want her to be afraid to reach out if she gets in trouble. I don’t know if young girls from Europe that have just graduated from high school have the same exposure to the frat-scene as girls in college do here, but honestly, I think she’s been fairly sensible so far, so I’m confident she will be OK. I asked for the phone numbers of the other AP’s and the host family (great idea!). I also told her that any other weekend I would be very supportive of her checking out another town, it’s just this particular environment is rather extreme. (Funnily my DH said he had no idea the UCSB is crazy on Halloween and would have just said “have fun”!).

So now, she will be leaving in as soon as I get home (about 6 pm) … I don’t envy her having to drive through LA on a Friday night. But she’s been informed and knows to be careful. I look forward to hearing her stories when she gets back!

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