Sample Family Handbook, from HM Amy Tea

by cv harquail on March 14, 2013

When you’re planning to welcome a new au pair, nothing is a better use of your time than updating– or creating — your Family Handbook.

Whether your Handbook is filled with instructions for how to use the washer, or whether it’s more like a  Manual that has all your car-related rules, getting that stuff written down and printed out for your au pair is critical.

Writing a manual or a handbook makes you get clear about what you want, and that’s more than half the work of creating a good au pair-host parent relationship.

Here on AuPairMom, we have a few examples of family handbooks– not only my early one, but also later versions from families who’ve written theirs from scratch, drafted them from mine or another host parent’s, or adopted the ones suggested by various Au Pair Agencies.

Recently we got another Handbook contribution– this time an antipodean version.

(Woot! I’ve always wanted to use the word antipodean in a blog post. I’m crossing that off my bucket list right. now.!)

New Zealand Host Mom Amy Tea sent us a copy of her handbook, with names removed so that it can be easily modified by other host parents.

(It also happens to have a very pretty header, which made me wonder why I hadn’t spent more time formatting mine to look pretty. )

Sample Au Pair Expectations: AmyT

I’m also going to check back through the 381 email in my “Ideas Sent to AuPairMom” folder, because I bet I have some more hiding in there somewhere. …. Many thanks to Amy (and in advance to anyone else who sent me a handbook that’s somewhere in that email folder. x0x)

In the meantime, be sure to check these posts from AuPairMom:

R.T.F.M. Making sure your Au Pair Reads the Family Manual
What exactly is a Host Family Handbook?
Is your Host Family Handbook Too Long?

Sample Handbook from a Reader
AP Handbook, part 1
Sample Handbook 2, from CC Family

From Agencies:

Cultural Care Au Pair Household Handbook Guide
Blank Household Handbook(very easy to use)
How can a Household Handbook help my au pair? (APIA)

Image: Countdown to Christmas Crafternoon Attribution Some rights reserved by craftivist collective on Flickr


Momma Gadget March 14, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Fabulous!.. and very opportune for me -I was just updating ours.
Thank You!

Seattle Mom March 14, 2013 at 6:05 pm

I am definitely going to use this as my template- my current handbook is huge but so hard to read! This helps a ton- thank you!

American HM in Europe March 15, 2013 at 5:06 am

This is a GREAT handbook example! I put one together last year using many of the ones I found on AupairMom, but I think I might adjust it a bit. Not only is this well organised and easy to use/follow, but I really like Amy’s parenting approach, it matches well to mine (but is better articulated!) (and her kids sound like mine too, with Child 1 and 2 being switched (mine is Child 1 and Children 2/3 – twins!).

WestMom March 15, 2013 at 7:40 am

I have just recently revised our guide. In 5 years, it’s amazing how many things change. The girls are bigger now, and the responsibilities related to their care has evolved. Our expectations have also changed, based on our past experience with four lovely, yet very different APs. I actually enjoy taking a new pass each year and making fine adjustments.

But I was running into the common problem of having a giant guide (although our Au Pairs have assured me there was no superfluous information…). Still, I made a change this year. I split the guide into two parts: One to give to the Au Pair before matching, and one with all the inner working of the gig, most relevant on arrival.

The 1st Part contains the following: Schedule, Benefits, Responsibilities, Family life, Transportation (inc. car access/responsibility) and Family Rules (inc. out of town guests…). I want to make sure the contract is crystal clear before we match with a candidate.

The 2nd Part contains the stuff that is handy once she is actually in our home: Contacts, Phone rules and instructions,Home/appliances instructions, Meals expectations and Ideas, and Fun things to do. I’ll probably copy the car stuff in there too, since we always seem to need a reminder on that topic at some point during the year.

I am about to share with a candidate. I’ll let you know how it goes :)

Seattle Mom March 15, 2013 at 2:39 pm

That sounds like a great idea.

Valnyc March 15, 2013 at 8:23 am

Aussie agency provides monthly meeting with early childhood educator for the au pair – that sounds dreamy! Our LCC is helpful with clarifying scheduling guidelines and navigating the agency process but doesn’t offer much more support and the monthly cluster meetings sound boring.

Valnyc March 15, 2013 at 8:25 am

Thanks for sharing this helpful handbook. Ours got shelved after our first review with this year’s wonderful ap, never picked up again. I have no idea how to make it more of a “living” reference.

Host Mom in the City March 15, 2013 at 9:28 am

This is similar to ours in style and tone. Thanks for sharing!

Multitasking Host Mom March 15, 2013 at 10:39 am

We are in our second year of hosting, and I did take the time last year to make a handbook. To put it together, I mostly used sections from handbooks provided on this blog, and a couple from other sample handbooks available through the agency website. I would “cut and paste” whole sections that I thought pertained to my family, and then make a few corrections to make it specific to our needs. (After all no use reinventing the wheel…especially since it was often phrased better in these sample handbooks than I could write it.)

I was going over it again a few months ago in preparation for our second au pair’s arrival. After a few more edits, to include a couple things we had learned in the past year, it was officially probably too long: 20 pages and over 6,000 words. But after thinking about it for awhile, I decided I liked that everything was spelled out clearly, and that we could both agree on something that was written down. I have been in a few volunteer and social organizations over the years, and I compare it to the bylaws that govern these groups. A few months ago, I realized how this could come in handy. Our au pair, while driving our car off duty, was involved in a hit and run that was not her fault. There was some minor damage to the side of the car. I honestly couldn’t remember what I had said more than a year earlier as the guidelines for this kind of situation. We were able to flip to the car section of the handbook, and we could both read exactly what her responsibility was in this case.

After our first interview, I sent our current au pair a somewhat condensed version of the handbook (only 10 pages that contained the information similar to what WestMom said above that she did). I knew she was the perfect au pair for us when the next time we spoke by Skype, she had read everything and was prepared with a list of questions to ask. Her official first day working for us was last week, and she come in the kitchen with a small piece of paper on which she had taken notes, from the list of suggested meals I had written in the handbook.

We did switch agencies this year. Our current agency only suggests writing out something that for the most part contains information on how to use the appliances in the house. No mention of an actual handbook detailing out child care, like the handbook in this post. I asked the LAR about it, and she had never heard of a family handbook. So thanks CV for bringing up the topic of handbooks, a tool that really is helpful to both host parents and au pairs.

cv harquail March 16, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I’m a bit shocked that you’re LAR/LCC wasn’t familiar with the kinds of handbooks we’ve been recommending to each other here on AuPairMom! I’m so glad though that you’ve found the samples helpful ;-) You’ve also prompted a new post…

Old China Hand March 17, 2013 at 9:14 am

Our LAR had never heard of a family handbook either. Or the agency person that interviewed me about the whole matching process. I ended up sharing ours with her and it is now anonymized and being used in LAR training and possibly being given to host families as a guide. It is based heavily on things I got on this website. I can share it with you if you email me, CV.

JJ Host Mom March 17, 2013 at 8:52 pm

We had a similar experience with our last au pair search. Things were going really well with a candidate, so I sent her our handbook. Didn’t hear back for a few days, then the agency contacts me and asks what I sent her, says she’s overwhelmed. I sent them the handbook. Didn’t hear back for a few days, then when I did hear back they had read the whole thing and were discouraging me from sending it out. They did have some specific feedback which improved it, which helped. I said that if the candidate was overwhelmed by the handbook then she probably wouldn’t be a good match for us, and that I intended to keep sending it out, so they helped me create a condensed version to send out during matching. The next candidate we talked with, things were going well, so I said “I have this handbook that tells everything you’d need to know about us. I’d like you to read it before we agree to match, so we can talk about any concerns. Would you like to read the short version or the long version?” She said – just go ahead and send the long version (about 6000 words, 40 pages.) Two days later she emailed me saying that she’d read the long version – twice – and that it all sounded very reasonable to her and she was even more interested in us. In our followup Skype she asked some good questions and made some comments about the handbook so I know she read it. Needless to say we matched after the next conversation. We’re really excited about her.

When the agency was first talking to me about the handbook I was having doubts, so I came back here and read some previous posts about handbooks. It helped me get the courage to send it out again, and prove yet again that, at least for me, it’s a good screening tool. So I’ll keep sending it out.

Old China Hand March 17, 2013 at 9:37 pm

I sent our handbook to our au pair before we matched and she asked me some clarifying questions. Our handbook comes to about 20 pages when formatted, but it includes lots of stuff for her about what to do around town and things like that. I was happy that she took the time to read it and ask questions. We don’t refer to it that often together, but there is a copy downstairs and a copy for her in her room. I’m fairly certain she has read through it quite carefully. I wish that I wrote in Chinese well enough to put the entire thing in Chinese for her. I need to add some more manual-type sections to it (how to use the washing machine, for example), but I am really happy that I found the information here about how to write it. I can’t imagine having gone through the whole process without forcing myself to articulate what we want.

JJ Host Mom March 17, 2013 at 10:35 pm

If you write it in Google Drive you can auto-translate it into almost any language. It’s not perfect but it’s helpful for ESL speakers.

Kelly Hand March 15, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Looking at how different these handbooks are makes it very clear that there is no single way American families do things. In fact, each family has its own unique culture, and there is a lot of potential for au pairs to experience culture shock that has as much to do with the culture of her host family as it does with American culture in general.

I was a counselor for an au pair program for six years, and still write fiction and nonfiction about child care issues. Based on the au pair/host family mismatches I have seen, I would recommend that all families send au pairs their handbooks BEFORE matching. Because the handbooks convey so much about families, this will help to minimize misunderstandings about the nature of the job and the personalities of the host parents. If your handbook sends au pairs running, that is useful information, and you may need to revise your expectations.

HM Amy Tea’s original handbook (which I know she has since revised) outlines expectations for organizing many spaces in the house. As a counselor, I would have considered this borderline in terms of appropriateness since au pairs should be focused on the children and child-related chores. My guess is these host parents are very tidy, so it probably would not result in the au pair cleaning up after them, but having her be “in charge of” all these areas in the house seems a little problematic to me. It leads to the question of whether she is in charge of those areas during her non-working hours also, and of course she shouldn’t be. If the kids make a mess of the shoe area or the playroom on the au pair’s day off, then the host parents need to deal with that. This just demonstrates how important it is to be clear in writing a handbook, assuming in most cases their intended audience is not a native speaker of English.

AmyT March 17, 2013 at 2:48 am

Hi all, I’m glad some of you found this useful. Kelly interesting comment about expectation because it is definitely not expected that our aupair does anything of that nature in her downtime! Also our house is tiny compared to many others, So the areas of tidiness are definitely areas the kids use! But good to be sure it’s clarified!

jennicar March 18, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Amy T – thank you so much for sharing your hand book. It has provided a great “kick-start” on compiling my own. Not sure if it is similar parenting styles or just the kiwi perspective but it just clicks for me. The biggest adversity I have had so far is adapting to some one caring for my children in my home with out me being there. I never wanted to micro manage their time but, I’m overwhelmed at the difference in lifestyles and took for granted how much would have to be spelled out. I dont expect our aupair to clean our toilets but our home is “our home” and I expect it to receive the same level of care and respect we afford ourselves. I dont consider my belief to be unyielding to the the principal: “our children should be your top priority.” Raising respectful, conscious, independant children requires leading by example.

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