How can we tell our Au Pair we don’t want to extend?

by cv harquail on March 13, 2012

Probably the biggest downside to the extension option is the possibility for a mismatch between the family’s interest in extending and the au pair’s interest in extending.

When both sides don’t clearly share the same expectation, someone is bound to get disappointed. And, when people are disappointed, they often withdraw from a relationship and leave the whole thing to disintegrate.

Disappoint an au pair who was hoping for an extension, and you might be facing a sullen, unmotivated au pair for the rest of the year.

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If you have an au pair who’s only okay, or one who really isn’t able to meet your needs, you absolutely don’t want to extend with her/him. But, if this very same au pair would herself/himself like to extend, how do handle possibly dissapointing the au pair when you still have several months before the end of the au pair’s time with you?

Usually, your best option when you can’t (or won’t) do what your au pair is hoping for is to “blame the system“.

1. Find something that really is an obstacle but that has nothing to do with your au pair or is simply beyond your au pair’s control.

2. Present that as the reason for not extending, and then there is no one to blame and not option to try to dissuade you.

For example, “Next year, we need an au pair who can drive on the highway to take DearChild to soccer games twice a week.” Or

“We’re planning to take our au pair with us on a long trip outside the USA, and we don’t want to take the chance that you’ll be denied re-entry into the US.”

TexasThreeTimeHostMom wrote with this concern, and shared the details of her situation. She’s pretty sure her au pair is not going to take this well.

Our au pair has been with us for 3 months. We’re her second family (she was a rematch). She’s 26. She thinks she is quite good at English but we struggle with her understanding simple instructions (we’re writing everything down if it is important!). Our au pair is very focused on using people/activities as a means to her ends rather than connecting…i.e. this person is a good friend for me because he is an English teacher. And, our two children are still not fond of the au pair. They do ok together during the day, but their bond is not strong during off hours/family time.

I have explained in detail that our au pair that she needs to be ready to engage our twins when we hand them off to her in the morning, but the children and the au pair struggle frequently with morning transitions. Instead of finishing her breakfast or preparing snacks for later, we want the au pair to engage the kids to prevent the standard 2 year old temper tantrum when mom and dad leave.

Our au pair is also a poor driver. She claimed she has a drivers license from a different US state in her previous placement, and she claimed that she was a frequent driver for 5 years. Not the case…turns out her home family has never even owned a car (OMG how did I not get this during our interviews?). Because she’s really not a strong driver, we’ve significantly limited places she can go with our children.   I paid over $300 for driving lessons when she rematched with us, to no avail.

Long story short, we’re getting through it, but we’re not thrilled. We’re looking forward to getting a new au pair at the end of July when our current au pair’s time is up.

Here’s my challenge – I am 100% sure I do not want to extend with her, and I’m pretty sure she wants to extend. She’s made friends here and we’re really a good placement – two kids, car access, nice home, short work week, generally friendly.

On top of this, my husband and I are coming up on a unique 10 week sabbatical from work. We’ve so been hoping to have a helpful and fun au pair to travel with us – we’re going out of the country and on a US driving trip.

I need to tell our au pair soon that we don’t want to extend, but I want her to be happy and helpful (as much as possible) so we don’t end up frustrated and annoyed during the rest of her time with us. We don’t have time to rematch right now to take the risk on another mess before our time off.

My husband and I have discussed different approaches as to telling her why we don’t want to extend, including:

“We want our daughter sto learn Spanish or Portuguese” (true, but not the main reason),

“We think, at 26, and you being a smart and motivated woman, you will not be challenged enough during another year of caring for a 2.5 year old and it is time to move on.” (also likely true, but something she can deny), or t

The brutal truth which I think is only likely to cause her heartache and us challenges over the next four months – we really need an au pair who connects with our children and is a safe, experienced driver.

I would love advice and insight from host moms who have been here and done this already!

How can I tell her that we are satisfied with her today (really, its not going to get that much better) but we do not want to extend and it is time to move on?

Thanks in advance for your ideas – TexasThreeTimeHostMom

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{ 25 comments }

momto2 March 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Oh, my! I was reading this and you completely described our most recent au pair. We took her from rematch, and she had been with us for 4 months. She is 26. She said she has been driving for 5 years, but we learned her family in Brazil does not own a car. She cannot understand about 50% of what we say to her in English. We must write everything down on paper for her to do…..everyday. She has never bonded with the kids in 4 months, though ours are 7 and 10. It is apparent that she does not really feel comfortable with kids, and thus, they simply could not stand her. She only had to work 20 hours a week, but summer scared us because we needed her to drive to camps and lessons. We paid for driver’s ed, and the instructor said she was not a safe driver. We were struggling with how we were going to finish our year with her, when our kids came to us a few weeks ago and begged us to never leave them with her anymore. Seems that the relationship strain with the kids was pretty significant. She was lazy and mean, and she yelled at them and often ignored them when we left. We ultimately decided that we had to let her go, but we knew that this would mean we would have to leave the program. We took her from rematch, b/c we let our previous au pair go…….[ We were the family that wrote in for help because our previous AP was crying all the time and wanted us to treat her like a little girl...and she wanted to be rocked and coddled when she was homesick. She ultimately returned home]. We knew after being two time losers we were not going to be able to bring another au pair here who would inevitably hear the victim story from the outgoing au pairs and the au pair cluster/network of friends would be super eager to bash us for being unfair. The “facebook” groups are pretty brutal! We decided to send the most recent AP into rematch, and we left the program for now. The text messages on our au pair phone after she left were pretty nasty, and her facebook updates were equally insulting. I guess what I am saying, is if she has her heart set on extending, and you don’t play along, she may poison the well for anyone who may follow. We will not consider another au pair for a while. We need a break from the drama and the poisonous rumor mill. We hired a nanny. She doesn’t have a facebook page! Good luck!

HRHM March 13, 2012 at 6:17 pm

First off, I would wait as long as humanly possible to tell her that you have made a decision one way or the other. You don’t say how long you have left, but I would wait until the decision HAS to made so that you have the shortest time possible with her once she knows she’s not staying. This won’t hurt her chances of extending with a new family, the agency won’t list them until a few weeks before the end of their current term either way.

Secondly, I would work at finding a way to blame it on the system while at the same time work at making her less interested in staying with your family. Yes, you read that right – my Mom always said that the best way to get your kids to move out as adults was to make them hate living in your house as teenagers. If she has increasing hours, more household duties related to the kids, less access to the car, she may find you less palatable to stay another year and may make the decision for you. It doesn’t need to be a sudden shift and it should certainly still be within the confines of the program, but there’s nothing to say you have to give her the world.

Thirdly, the thing with the license – did she outright lie about the license in the other state or was that a “misunderstanding” Honestly if she doesn’t have a US drivers license already, you can tell her she has to get one in the next 60 days and when she can’t/doesn’t, you can tell her that’s grounds for not extending (it makes your insurance expensive, you question her ability with your kids in the car, your vehicle is at risk etc) And if she outright lied about the license, that would be enough for me (at the last minute) to say, you lied when you came to us, it cost us a lot of time and money and because of that we aren’t planning on extending.

FWIW, based on your description, I wouldn’t wait – I’d rematch now. She sounds like a less than mediocre AP at best. Your kids (and you) deserve better.

lifestartsnow March 13, 2012 at 7:02 pm

i also lean towards a rematch now but that isn’t what is up for discussion here.

i would spin the not-extending on the driving skills. say that you will need more driving to be done and you require a driver with experience. she has taken courses and has been driving for you but she is not where you need her to be in order to feel comfortable for the demands you have in the future.

also use the fact that she is not improving on her language skill a topic for not extending. your kids are getting bigger, you would want them to learn the language properly and not so-so. in addition, the whole writing down STILL after so many months in the country is a big red flag for me that alone is reason enough not to extend.

if you do not want to rematch now i am with HRHM: wait with telling her but please do not stretch it to a point where i becomes just plain unfair.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 13, 2012 at 9:20 pm

My primary advice – give no reasons for choosing not to extend unless your AP asks. Just thank her for her time with you, tell her what her good points are, and that you will support her in her quest to find another host family.

BTDT with AP #5. Her English was poor and never gelled during the year. I got tired of asking her when she was going to take the required pre-licensing course (required in our state). When I blew my stack (to DH) after 5 months in when she could not drive The Camel to a routine doctor’s appointment because there was ice on the sides of the road, my LCC advised, “Stop asking her to get her license. When she doesn’t use it as your main reason not to extend.” She didn’t and we didn’t offer to extend.

My LCC also gave good advice – wait until her extension paperwork comes to have a chat. We gave her a choice of evenings to meet when the extension paperwork arrived, and she chose the first possible. We gave her no reason for not extending, and she didn’t ask. (Had she asked, we might have limited our reasons to her driving, but in reality her personality grated on me — and my griping drove DH to distraction – even though he agreed with me.) What I did tell her at that adults-only meeting was, “If you choose to get a driver’s license at this point, you will pay for it.” (We offer to pay for everything but require our APs to schedule the class and the test(s) and figure out their documentation needs.) We also told her that if she was interested in extending then she should approach the LCC and ask her how to maximize her chances of extending.

We were honest on the form that HF fill out in our agency: that she had had one minor accident, that her English wasn’t great, that she was very shy and reclusive – which was not what we wanted in an AP, and that she never joined us in family activities. We also stated explicitly that she was a fantastic caregiver for our special needs child. We made her failure to get a driver’s license our major reason for not extending.

We potential HF called us, it was amazing the number who never asked “Why aren’t you extending with this AP?” Those who did, we only said, “Because we need a driver and she never acquired a U.S. Driver’s license.” If they pressed us, we were honest that she was an advanced beginner driver with the skill level of a teenager who had just received her license but wasn’t particularly comfortable behind the wheel.

In the end, she did extend with another family who had younger children and refused to let their AP’s drive. I think she had a much better experience.

If your AP does want to extend, then it is in her best interest not to behave like a lame duck who has nothing to lose. I would say that while AP’s can extend without their HF acting as a reference, they have little chance if their LCC’s are not on their side. If your AP has submitted her extension paperwork and is not behaving particularly well, then it is time to have a quiet chat, remind her that she is still going to finish our her year with you, and that you expect better behavior. I would invoke rematch only if the behavior does not improve.

While I totally believe in verbal face-to-face communication, I also believe, when an AP’s English is weak, in following it up with an email (and blind cc-ing the LCC). You don’t have to make her life miserable by piling on more work, but you do have the right to insist that she accomplish the work you ask her to do. Believe me, as she gets closer to her end date the likelihood of her becoming a viable rematch or extension candidate drops considerably, and she should not want to take that risk (a good LCC will warn her of that).

The extension process may take weeks and there will be a great deal of tension in your house if she gets close to her “going home” deadline and hasn’t found a family. Our agency extended AP #5′s deadline several times until she found a match. Once she found a match — a couple of weeks before she left our house, her English plummeted. Her caregiving remained unchanged, but her relationship with us was gone. We solved that, by encouraging her new HF to take her the day after her last day with us (which they eagerly did), so we didn’t have that last weekend and hanging Monday with her.

Hindsight is always 20-20. If I had to do it again, I would have rematched immediately rather than have the year limp along. It was too much effort on my part – and about halfway through her successor’s year, I emailed the LCC just to say, “She how little we need to chat when I’m having a good year with an AP!”

TexasThreeTimeHostMom March 13, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Thanks for the advice. She did have a driver’s license from another state, I thought I was clear in my email to the moderator. Our agency rated her as a good driver, after having an LCC in her previous location driver with her. Totally not the case though. It was clear that she did not have much time on the road, and almost none on freeways (talk about coaching on my part). Similar to many American and Texas families, we’re close to town with no public transportation options. I think leaning towards the driving reason is a decent one. I also think the statement about not giving much of a reason at all is valid! She did ask me a few days ago about next year, I stalled by mentioning that I needed to talk with host dad. She will be joining us on our extended travels, we don’t have a choice remaining in timing. This is somewhat frustrating as our first experience was so positive. So with that in mind, we remain committed to the au pair program and are not looking for a nanny alternative. I was an exchange student and lived abroad for several years; nannies tend to quit and don’t have health insurance unless paid a lot more than we pay an au pair. With the right girl, it’s magic. With a more challenging one, a host mom’s struggle. Being one that lived in more unusual places (middle of nowhere in Asia), I was open minded about new cultures but now I think I am likely to go back to one I am more familiar with managing. Yay. I don’t have the time or energy to rematch at this point. We’ll get by until the middle of the summer.

SingleHM March 14, 2012 at 9:41 am

Are you sure you don’t want to rematch? If you have 9 more months with her, that’s an awful long time to stay in this state. I can’t imagine muddling through until then, if she’s like what you describe. I would think it’s more time/energy draining to deal with her than a possibility of a better match.

I wouldn’t mention reasons unless asked. If so, I would narrow down on the driving aspect, especially if you will be doing a lot next year.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

TexasThreeTimeHostMom March 14, 2012 at 10:02 am

We only have until the summer, she came to us via rematch due to some other circumstances that would be more fun to share over a bottle of wine than a blog forum. So, with that in mind, I’m not looking to rematch and interview now, just effectively communicate the decision not to extend with her, and yet have her be committed to her job (and not making me crazy) during the time remaining.

SingleHM March 14, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I actually saw that AFTER I posted.

Sorry!

Dorsi March 14, 2012 at 1:53 pm

I would argue that it would be better to not use driving as the issue. Driving skills are subjective. I would pick something that you really cannot debate– we need our daughters to learn Spanish.

Otherwise, I think HRHM’s advice was spot on.

Lisa Gates March 14, 2012 at 2:10 pm

First, thank you for this topic! I have to admit that the aupair world is not my area of experience, but as a negotiation trainer, I was really struck by the “avoidance of conflict” suggestions.

I have to admit I have never hired an au pair and my son is now 15, but my reference point here is that these conversations are negotiations — and it is possible to have a “mutual benefit” negotiation, but not by avoiding the truth.

Think about it as if your family is the corporation and the aupair is one of your team partners. Avoiding the conversation or suppressing the full truth is helpful to nobody. You can’t create workability if you don’t express how your expectations are not being met. And if you really don’t want to continue the relationship, finding the “system” answer is disingenuous.

These kinds of conversations take courage to begin, but compassion and clarity to complete. I think we would all rather hear the hard truth that we are not a “right fit” for the job–and be met with suggestions for improvements. We don’t want to repeat our mistakes, but learn from them.

We can all smell a rat — meaning when we hear a half truth or a “blame the system” problem, we can smell that there’s a deeper issue. I was fired from a job when I was 21 and my boss said, “I think we both know why.” I didn’t have a clue, and I was too scared and green to ask why. But I knew something was up and it must have meant I was a loser. That’s what I made up.

So my suggestion would be to use diagnostic, open-ended questions to source your aupair for workability and self assessment:

How would you say things are going between you and the children?
How much of a fit do you feel you are with the children/family?
What could be better?
What skills would you like to improve/perfect as an aupair?

Once you hear/understand/assess your aupair, tell him/her what you’re itchy about:

I am uncomfortable with your driving ability and this is really a deal breaker for us.

I am bothered by the fact that you’ve not been able to establish a bond after 4 months. What would you do if you were in my shoes?

I need an aupair to reflect our parenting style and I’m uncomfortable about how you communicate and discipline the children. What are you willing to change/work on?

The kids are pretty stressed out and regularly communicate how unhappy they are about spending time with you. What do you think is motivating that?

If you are dissatisfied with his/her responses, tell your aupair the truth–that he/she won’t be asked to extend. If she chooses to leave immediately (I don’t know the contractual stuff) or you sense that things will become unworkable, communicate your expectations and consequences if those expectations aren’t met.

If that doesn’t work, it might be good to have a “plan B” in the wings in the event the placement doesn’t work out.

What you’re trying to do, ultimately, is find workability at best, or temporary workability with transparency.

2 cents…

Happy Au Pair March 15, 2012 at 9:08 pm

@ Lisa Gates: I don’t think a conversation like this would be an option for this HF as the AP doesn’t speak and understand English well…

AFHostMom March 15, 2012 at 6:53 am

Extension shouldn’t be the default–in my opinion, it should be treated as what it is–an option. My husband and I don’t go into HP-AP relationships with the expectation that they’ll last longer than a year. If they do, what a pleasant surprise. But if they don’t, eh, they were never meant to. I still consider making it through a full AP year a victory for all parties!
So to me, your decision not to extend is just the logical choice in an exchange program in which the term is one year. I like the idea of not giving a reason unless pressed. Maybe I’m strange.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 15, 2012 at 12:47 pm

One more thing, and this is an aside to the conversations – for APs who believe they understand English better than they do, here’s what I have done. Give verbal instructions. Then, ask, “Now how are you going to do X?,” “When are you going to do Y?,” or “What does child Z need to wear to school today?” If she cannot repeat the request, issue the verbal instructions again and have her take notes. While it takes more time than writing everything out, it will make life easier for you in the long run, as the AP has to learn to listen well enough to write.

By the 7th month, most APs have gained sufficient listening skills to follow instructions. Strongly visual APs may still need to rely on notes.

AFHostMom March 16, 2012 at 5:33 am

Excellent advice–we have asked AP to repeat something we’ve told her, and despite getting the normal “oh yeah’s” and “ok, ok’s”, she couldn’t do it. It really cut down on the pretending to understand just so we would stop talking :)
Plus my Spanish has dramatically improved since AP3 arrived! It’s amazing what you can remember when you need to.

German Au-Pair March 18, 2012 at 3:59 am

I’ve always wondered why a hostfamily would take an au pair with very bad English in the first place. Babies may not need someone with good English, but it would drive me nuts if I couldn’t communicate the simplest things to a person I live with.
Plus when something happens I would want the au pair to not only be able to say THAT something happened but also give details to any doctors or report back to me what was said. A stressful situation like that is hard enough for someone with decent English, but what does someone do, who cannot understand and/or say the simplest things?

Taking a Computer Lunch March 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Sometimes English ability varies. DH and I have relied on the traditional telephone interview with APs, in part because the ability to speak English without gestures and social cues is difficult. Out of 7 APs, we have hosted 2 APs whose English was far less than we expected given our telephone interview.

AP #1 had a really good ear and was able to hear cognates and answer the question appropriately. She was also a pediatric intensive care nurse, and perfect for our medically fragile toddler and infant (who had had bacterial meningitis as a newborn and was developmentally delayed). AP #1 had a good ear, was intellectually curious, and ask questions of us all the time, and acquired English quickly, although she remained quiet in group situations for a long time. She was also a great and loving caregiver. (Remember HF are often willing to overlook the lack of one skill when things are going well.)

AP #5 had had extensive experience speaking English and did well at explaining her post and talking about herself in the past, which was perfect for a telephone interview when HP want to hear about skills. She was the best of the three candidates that were available, and while we thought about diving back into the candidate pool, we decided to match with her. She was the opposite in temperament from AP #1 even though her English skills upon arrival were similar. She never asked questions, she rarely talked extensively even when asked, and when a crisis occurred with The Camel she made a mistake in our presence that made it clear that she hadn’t understood a word we had said to her (even though she had been living with us for 7 months at that point).

I will say that we once interviewed a candidate who was so nervous about her English ability that she asked a friend to join her during her interview to help translate when she didn’t understand the question. We cut the interview short – not because her English was weak – but because she was so worried about trying. I did tell her in a follow-up email, that her choice to have a friend help her made a negative impression.

AFHostMom March 18, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Well, our first AP had impeccable English but didn’t like kids and was very difficult to live with. Our second AP had weaker English but was great with our kids. Our third AP has terrible English but it’s improving dramatically, WANTS to improve her English, and she is wonderful with our children. Give me a good caretaker who needs to–and wants to–improve her English any day over a candidate with perfect English and a terrible attitude.
In fact, I’d almost *rather* have a candidate with worse English because I feel like it’s perfectly in tune with the spirit of the Au Pair exchange program. What a wonderful way for someone to gain a tremendously valuable language skill!

AFHostMom March 18, 2012 at 10:52 pm

and one more thing before anyone misinterprets–I am well aware that strong English and good childcare skills are NOT mutually exclusive. My family just doesn’t have a problem with someone who needs a lot of help with English–provided we can communicate in other ways (like her native language)and she is eager to improve.

PA AP Mom March 15, 2012 at 5:07 pm

It’s a tough situation. Best of luck.

My 2 cents March 24, 2012 at 9:20 am

I agree with AFHostMom. Extension is not a right and not the standard. I would also delay as long as possible giving her an answer. It’s only been 3 months.

We’ve been in this position where we had an average au pair and did not want to extend. I encouraged her to experience another region of the U.S., chatted up that aspect, never mentioned us keeping her, but rather, suggested she could help us interview the next applicant. Ultimately, you may have to just tell her. Just tell her you entered the program to experience new people and cultures, you think a new experience for her given that she only gets to do this once in a lifetime, etc.

Whatever you do, do not feel guilty. It is not your job to keep her. It’s a one year program by default. And she is pretty lame to boot.

Heather Host Mom March 31, 2012 at 3:25 pm

I have successfully hosted 2 au pairs (each were 19 one from Sweden and the other from Germany). I screened them via a skype interview which I believe is critical when hiring a person you have never met before. I screened a number of women from Brazil and while they were very educated I thought their English skills were dreadful, eliminating them from consideration. We live in a snowy climate so experience driving in snow was also a requirement. Each were with us for the 1 year. The 1st Au Pair I then asked to return for 6 months after the 2nd one completed and this Summer she is coming to work a month also.

I made it obvious to each of the women at the beginning of each of their terms with us that we deeply value the exchange piece of the Au Pair experience and therefore are only planning to host them for the year and that extension is not of interest since we want the children to have the opportunity to experience more cultures. This really helped set the tone early on and avoided hurt feelings. I think you can always alter things if you really fell in love with the Au Pair and then wanted to offer an option to Extend but this way it is crystal clear what is going on and no surprises.

anonymous for now January 3, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Reviving this thread:

We have an AP in her 6th month who wants to extend with us. I’ve had 4 au pairs and never extended.

The AP is really responsible and dutiful and does well with my 6-yr-old daughter. She has had a rockier relationship with my preteen daughter–but in fact all of our previous au pairs had a mixed relationship with my daughter and sometimes stormy interactions that required my intervention. Are preteen girls difficult for all APs to handle, or is my daughter truly more difficult than most? For the most part she gets along ok with my daughter though. The AP is cheerful and reliable, busy with her social life in her off hours, and we are ok with that because it truly does not affect her work.

Why am I leery of extending? I do wonder if the newness and fun wear off, and we like the fresh enthusiasm. On the other hand, not spending the time to select and train someone would be a stress reducer. Also this AP is so reliable, and I don’t see that changing in the second year. She respects expectations and rules and overall does an excellent job.

So I guess the only 2 real worries I have are these:

1. Will the relationship with my preteen get worse, e.g. will the AP lose her patience? Or perhaps it would it be easier for my preteen NOT to start over with a new AP (I think she was a bit heartbroken at the end of the last AP’s year)? Should I place more value on this AP’s having negotiated a mostly-good relationship to my preteen? A new AP would of course be a question mark with respect to my preteen.

2. And, this I am afraid to say, this AP has some personal mannerisms that don’t appeal to me. Superficial things that make me wince because to me they feel (getting my armor on) low class and thickheaded. Can I live with those for another year? These don’t affect her work but make me sometimes squirm inwardly. I would hate to develop an ‘allergy’ to the AP, because she is a good AP. But some of the mannerisms and style issues require me to hold my tongue frequently. I will confess that this is my bigger worry and it really has nothing to do with childcare.

HRHM January 3, 2013 at 4:54 pm

As for number 1, I would talk to your pre-teen and see what she has to say about it. Not so much to ask if she’d want to extend with AP, but how she felt when prior AP left, how she’ll feel if/when current AP goes and a new one arrives and most importantly, how she feels about current AP in general. My 8 yo is definitely butting heads with our current AP (who is FANTASTIC by all MY measures) and this seems to be new. I’m not sure if it’s because this AP actually enforces the rules or (more likely) DD’s age. But I can see that they love each other and I think DD would rather keep her than start over with a new AP (as would I.)

As for number 2, have you addressed the things that make you cringe and are they really germaine? For instance, if she dresses like a tramp, you are not out of bounds to sit down with her in private and point out that your daughter sees her as a role model (for better or worse) Same goes if she makes bigoted comments, listens to raunchy music or talks about being fat in front of your kids. If she’s a really good AP, I usually find that these can be sorted out easily with a quick, non-judgemental chat.

HTH

anonymous for now January 3, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Thanks for the advice. Yes, I don’t want my preteen to think she gets to decide, but I will ask her for feedback on the AP.

The cringey things are not as bad as your examples. She doesn’t dress slutty per se, but more trying-to-look-expensive, hence overdone with bangles and knockoff designer stuff. The worst of it for me is even just facial expressions and speech habits, like just asking, “Wha? [sic no 't']” and having her mouth hang open when she doesn’t understand something. She sometimes comes across as dumb when she is not, with that slack-jawed blank face when confronted with something complicated. These mannerisms are, I admit, not a big deal but I wonder if they will make me crazy if we extend.

I guess it boils down to a sort of thickheaded style or feigned-helplessness thing in new or complicated situations. In the second year there would be fewer of these. But would it (unfairly) drive me nuts? If she is otherwise very dutiful and pleasant, am I silly to hesitate with extension?

Taking a Computer Lunch January 3, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I was fortunate in that I had three level-headed and mature APs who extended with us (one of whom we attempted to sponsor as an employer and lived with us for a total of 3 1/2 years before moving on). I know some of the other HMs have expressed disappointment in how year 2 worked out. We were happy to extend with all three of the APs and I don’t recall any reservations on our part. We asked an addition 3 APs to extend with us and they chose to return home. We chose not to extend with one AP who wanted to, and our current AP has made it clear that she has no interest in extending.

In my experience, if everything is going well, it is easy to overlook things that displease you. If things aren’t going well or you only have a few weeks left together, the little things sometimes turn into big things. Since you find your AP’s mannerisms annoying, then why not have a bigger family discussion – first with your husband or partner and then with your preteen. I agree with you, make it clear with your preteen that she doesn’t hold the deciding vote.

If you extend, what would you like to change? Your family has the opportunity to sit down with your AP and edit your handbook and create a document on which you agree for your second year together.

As for your preteen, the best advice I ever got is to encourage your AP to have time with her on her terms. Schedule your AP to have a Saturday afternoon alone with your preteen. Encourage her to find out what your daughter would like to do and follow through (as long as it is acceptable to you) – movies, shopping, playing soccer, swimming, etc. Have time alone with your daughter at the center of her attention may ease the sparks.

I think it is harder for APs to get into an older child’s skin and do an activity on their terms than to be the disciplinarian. Out of the 8 APs I have hosted, it was the extraordinnaires who excelled at it, and the regular APs (except for one) had to be coached.

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