I laughed with recognition of the dynamics in this Host Mom’s comment– who hasn’t seen their Au Pair and their kid(s)-of-a-certain-age get into squabbles just like 7th graders fighting over who gets to sit where in the cafeteria?
… I’ve got a concern regarding the “attitude” issue. Over summer vacation, issues that were small annoyances during the school year are becoming more problematic. I know that I need a “reset conversation” but I am struggling with the “clarifying the specific behaviors that are missing” part.
We have middle school kids and they essentially think that the au pair is angry at them all the time. From my view it is a combination of a reserved personality with a disbelief that they cannot do everything for themselves at their age.
On the other side, if I ask the au pair to make sure they get a specific chore done he tells me that they won’t listen to him. He also thinks that one of my kids doesn’t like him. I feel like it is turning into some sort of middle school drama.
I tried to talk to kids and au pair together several months ago about some of these issues but it turned into a disaster when my son interpreted it that we were blaming him for everything.
It’s challenging to have to talk with Au Pairs about their dynamics with the kids.
Sometimes being ‘part of the family’ draws out some of the negative dynamics from their own families back home — such as, feeling like the beleaguered older sister, feeling like no one appreciates that you make your bed but nobody else does, and so on.
And, we assume that once the kids are articulate, that the Au Pair and the kids can work out a nice relationship between them. Maybe I’ve been lucky that virtually all our au pairs were able to create positive relationships with my girls. Sure, some were closer relationships that others, but most were respectful.
Which reminds me– perhaps the #1 piece of advice with this kind of situation is to make sure that the Host Parent(s) are deliberately, frequently modeling positive behavior towards the au pair –– in front of the kids. If you are a good role model, that’s a marvelous start.
A second idea is to ‘raise up’ the conversation one more level-– instead of talking about how A treats B and B treats A, try talking about the ‘big picture’ of your family values and how you want people in the family to interact with each other. This strategy takes the pressure of one person and also helps focus on the positive values that everyone can rally around.
What else could you do to resolve this Au Pair – Host Children relationship drama?
Image: Goofy Love by Amanda Tipton on Flickr