How do you handle it when you discover that your au pair has been out drinking, even though she is under the legal drinking age in your state?
What if she has been out drinking with older au pairs? Or gone to a keg party at a local college? Or just bought some wine to drink at home with her au pair pals?
Several host families report feeling challenged by their au pair’s partying habits. It’s bad enough when she comes home late and really tired, but when she comes home wasted, that’s really terrible. And, if she’s underage, she’s actively demonstrating bad judgment.
What should you do?
Your options include:
- Looking the other way Don’t ignore this behavior!
- Having a talk about “the law” and ramifications of breaking it
- Having a talk about what happens to you socially when you get drunk (e.g., bad interactions with men, loss of personal control, drunk driving, embarrassment and shame, not to mention weight gain).
- Linking privileges to good behavior.
- Providing alternative options for non-alcoholic fun.
- Enlisting the help of your LCC and other host parents.
A chance for Host Parents to show some concern, some caring and some mentoring
When an au pair (or anyone else, for that matter) demonstrates bad judgment and/ or immaturity, it can be a chance for you as an adult to make an important difference in her life. Some listening, some talking, some sharing, and some candid, direct advice from you can help her figure out how to have fun without breaking the law or putting herself in danger. This is one of those situations where you really should think of your au pair as a member of your family, and try to assist her as though she were a niece, a cousin, a god daughter, a friend.
You response may depend on her history
Many au pairs come from countries where the legal drinking age is younger than 21 (or 18) and may have already spent a few years drinking legally. Some au pairs come from countries or families where drinking wine with meals is common (even if you are under age). And, some au pairs come from religious backgrounds where liquor is verboten, or from families with histories of teetotaling or alcoholism.
Your Au Pair’s history, in terms of legal experience, as well as any social and personal history that might complicate the drinking issue, should be considered as you plan your response.
It she used to be legal….
It’s hard to tell someone who has already experienced the privilege of buying alcohol legally that she cannot enjoy this privilege in your community. But, unless she wants to get arrested, fined, or bounced from a fun club, she needs to obey the law.
I suppose you could threaten her that she’d lose her au pair job if she were arrested, and that she’d lose all her savings if she incurred a fine, but maybe the best approach is to remind her that this year is all about learning and growing. Learning to obey the law even when it isn’t so much fun is part of growing up.
Some parents have suggested that if an au pair has already been drinking legally at home, it would be okay to allow her to drink in your home (as long as she wasn’t going out later). Your mileage may vary on that one …
If all her friends are older …
You may have the one under-age au pair in your cluster, and her being underage may get in the way of her socializing with the other au pairs. One option would be to encourage her to make additional friends, to find clubs where underage folks can enter and not drink (like a concert venue), or even to permit her to have friends over to your house.
Needless to say, but if you find that your au pair has driven your car while ‘under the influence’, this is a serious safety violation that should suggest a rematch. At the very least, you must take away her personal driving privileges (imho).
What experiences have you had with underage au pairs drinking? Has anything worked well to stop this? Please share….