Maximizing a Warm Welcome from first-time Host Kids

by cv harquail on July 30, 2009

Getting an au pair for the first time is a big deal for host parents, and it’s a particularly bg deal for host kids. They too will be switching from one form of care to another, and they too will have someone they don’t know (yet) living in their house, drivin their car, petting their dog, and simply being around.

200907302316.jpg If your host kids are old enough to understand an explanation for the switch in caregiving, what can you tell them?

How can you describe an au pair as a concept and your incoming au pair as a specific person to little kids, and do this in a way that gets them excited for her arrival?

Any advice for breaking the news of impending AP’s arrival?

We have two boys, 4 and 6, who have had nannies (live out) but never an AP. My youngest, in particular, has had the same (wonderful!) nanny his entire life.

Our nanny is going back to school this fall and we decided to try an AP.

Our new AP, from Canada (we took a big cultural risk on our first time, LOL) arrives in about two weeks. We want to tell the boys about a week before her arrival, so they know what’s happening but don’t obsess about it.

We are also having our current nanny and new AP overlap for at least 2 weeks, while new AP gets her bearings. Trying to optimize our chances of transition success.

Thoughts from you wise readers? WestCoast Mom

Host moms & dads…. what advice can you give about how WestCoast Mom can explain….

  • Why your nanny is leaving
  • Why you’re getting an au pair
  • Who the au pair is
  • What having an au pair might be like
  • Why the au pair and nanny are overlapping

Be sure to look at the posts:
6 Reasons to Have Au Pairs Overlap
6 Potential Problems with Au Pair Overlap
What if my kids overwhelm her on the first day?
Advice Wanted: How to set the right tone from Week 1

Welcome by alborzshawn on Flickr

{ 5 comments }

Anonymous July 31, 2009 at 10:39 am

We had a similar thing – we had the same live-out nanny since my 3 year old was born and since my older kids (9 and 11) were adopted from Russia three years ago, so last year when she moved out of state it was hard on all of us. She had gotten married and moved to live with her new husband, so the kids were able to understand that. As for getting our AP, I phrased it to them that she wanted to come see America and our State, and while she was here, she was going to be taking care of them. I also told them that she wanted to work on learning English, and that after she had spent about a year here learning about our country and learning English, she would go back home to share everything she had learned with the people in her own country.

I really wanted to emphasize to them that she was part of our family, not some hired worker. They were adopted at ages 6 and 7, so they clearly remembered the frustrations of learning English, and I think that helped. They felt “responsible” for helping her learn English as well.

I think some of the most important things you can do is adjust kids to the idea of who this person is before arrival. Things like writing the AP letters (if kids are old enough), calling to talk to her on the phone, or web cam with her are really important. We had a lot of pictures she had sent, so we looked at her pictures, called her, and sent her family in Macedonia a package. We went to the bookstore, bought a picture book of scenery from our state, and wrote in it to send to her family. I explained to them that her family was sad that they wouldn’t see her for a year, but they were excited she had the opportunity to come live with us. I wanted them to be prepared in case she was initially homesick.

I also talked to them about how scary it was for her to come here on a plane (she had never been on one before!), and leave her friends and family to come to a new place and learn a new language. I told them they needed to be very patient with her while she was learning about the rules of our house, and that they had to help her learn those rules. It seemed to give them a feeling of responsibility and helped her transition in to the home.

Right before her arrival, we made signs to take to the airport, and I ordered a flag from her home country off the internet so we could have that at the airport as well.

Fast forward one year later, and she has extended with us for a second year. All three kids adjusted to her quickly, and for us, I think it helped to put it that her primary reason for being here was to see the country and learn English, and the secondary reason was to help mom and dad out with the kids. I suspect this might not work for all kids, but it worked well for ours.

Calif Mom August 1, 2009 at 9:00 am

I think the idea of one’s family and home being someone’s destination for their own adventure is fun–and truthful. Not sure if your kids are too little to latch onto that idea. I wouldn’t dwell too much on the part of her leaving again in a year (because you don’t want to set yourself up to have to explain when things change later on). “She’s coming to join our family and take care of you while I’m at work, just like Nanny did, only she won’t go home at the end of the day”. And talk through how you are feeling about it. Depending on your oldest’s temperament, it might be very helpful to wonder some things out loud: “I wonder if she will like hamburgers” “I bet she is worried and nervous and excited to come here, just like we are a little bit nervous” etc.

And, as with every conversation about big stuff with kids, wait for their questions to drive your explanations. Don’t give them LBEs (“long boring explanations”) when they just want to know what time we are driving to the airport. You are undoubtedly a lot more nervous than the kids! Don’t project anxiety onto them if it isn’t really there!

And wow, Anonymous, I wish I had been your au pair. What thoughtful things you did.

Calif Mom August 1, 2009 at 12:05 pm

West Coast Mom,

I understand the theory that a two-week overlap will give your nanny a chance to train the new AP on every possible issue and situation that might pop up, but I really think two weeks is going to be too long. Hate to rain on your parade, and I truly do understand the impetus, b/c your nanny knows your kids as well as if she had borne them. But think about it from your own work experience. I would not like to my predecessor at work, a short-timer, shadowing me for two weeks. It drove me crazy just having my boss brain-dump on me for two days. I needed to figure this job out for myself, do a lot of reading, start interacting with people and develop my own authority. Similar thing here for the AP.

So once she is over the jet lag, give her a few days with the nanny or with you, and let her launch.

check out the other post on overlapping nannies. it captures it all!

Best of luck!

West Coast Mom August 4, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Thanks, Calif Mom and Anonymous.

We broke the news a few days ago, and it was … no big deal! They were mildly interested, asked a few questions, and the went right back to their legos. They have since asked a few more questions (Where’s Canada? Why is she going to live with us?) but no drama. I’m not sure my youngest, in particular, understands that when AP arrives, nanny will be leaving soon thereafter. He knows sh’es “going to college” but we’ll see.

AP arrives in two days! I’ll post back and let you know how we do.

West Coast Mom

tracy cota August 22, 2009 at 1:47 am

I hope your warm welcome went well. I am both a Local Childcare Coordinator for Cultural Care Au Pair and a host mom. I have seen families overlap au pairs, and intentionally wait for one to leave before the new au pair arrives. And I have seen successes with both. As a host mom, I have both overlapped my au pairs, and kept their arrival and departure dates separate. What matters most is how you handle whatever situation you choose.

When you overlap your au pairs, you have the benefit of having the current au pair train the new au pair. We did this with our first au pair, and it helped make for a very seamless transition. The new au pair knew exactly where the parks were, what the kids ate for breakfast, how to get to school. It also helped the kids adjust to the new au pair very easily, since they knew the new au pair so well by the time the old one left.

When you overlap your au pairs, you have to remember that your old au pair can’t show your new au pair everything, and that you must also help with the training for your relationship and his/her understanding of duties/expectations to be a success. That you, the parents, are the constant between au pairs. You must also take time to orient the au pair to the new family, his/her surroundings and make her feel welcome, just like you did with your first au pair.

As soon as our first au pair left, and our second one was on her own, we took the kids to a “kid’s night” place and took our second au pair out to dinner and a hike, so we could have some one-on-one time with her and get to know her. I think made her feel important, and gave us time together that we needed. I think doing something like this goes a long way toward creating a solid bond, and making the new au pair feel like a part of the family.

It can be difficult for a new au pair to come into your home and see the close connection the previous au pair has with the family. Making sure that the new au pair understands how excited you are to have her arrive can help.

If you choose to keep your arrival date and departure date separate, you can focus on welcoming your new au pair without the emotions of the old au pair leaving. You can create an opportunity to do things differently than you did the last time, be a better communicator or delegator, refresh your host family handbook and reflect on your last experience and how you will improve upon it.

Both have advantages and challenges, and both work well for families and au pairs. If you go into each situation prepared for what those are, and you are pro-active and engaged, I think you will set the stage for a great year with your new au pair.

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