Saying Goodbye to a Host Toddler: Ideas?

by cv harquail on June 20, 2014

“You have to stay forever, ” the little girl tells me. “We love you more than your real family.”

Our first au pair adored our first child.

She sang to her, read to her, dressed her up in crazy outfits, taught her how to blow dandelion puffs, and rocked her to sleep in her arms. I think that one of the reasons my daughter was so calm and so open to the world is that Margit always made her feel loved.

I remember so many different things that Margit did with our family, but alas, my daughter does not.  This makes me sadder than I can say.

Of course, we have some photos, but since this was before smart phones and before easy video, so I don’t have many ways to show her all that Margit did for her.
If I were doing it all over again I’d take more videos, short ones of everyday things. And, I’d take a video of Margit saying goodbye.
NosVemosAP wrote with this concern:
I have been an aupair with this HF for more than 20 months, and I’m just about to leave for home. I would like a bit of advice on how to help the kids transition to a new au pair, and especially to help them be okay with me leaving.
I’m this Host Family’s first aupair. They aren’t used to the changing aupair thing.
The children are quite young — 2 and 4 — and we are really attached. This is most true with the little one, who I have been spending all day with since he is 7 months old.
Already I know this will be hard for the little one. He always asks if I am going somewhere, when I will be back. When he leaves he says will miss me, and he asks if I will miss him.  When I am not on duty and am in my room, he often calls for me and looks for me.
The 4 year old is more complicated and more independent. But even so she says she doesn’t want me to leave.
You have to stay forever,” the little girl tells me. “We love you more than your real family.
How can I say goodbye to these children in a way that is good for them?
How can I tell them how special they are, without making things worse?
Thanks for all ideas,   NosVemosAP


CADinAUS June 20, 2014 at 4:37 pm

It’s hard both ways but I think the main thing is to make it seem fun. If you are doing a switch over to make the new aupair do activities or jobs relating to the children directly while you work behind the scenes. My host child (age2) switched into daycare after I left before the new au pair arrived. She did cry quite a bit but I think it was mostly due to change. After a week or so she adjusted and happily talks about her school friends. I went to visit after 6 weeks and she was actually strange with me. As hard as it seems like it will be for the kids, it’s actually harder for the aupair as she will have memories but the children forget, sadly.

Gretchen June 20, 2014 at 9:10 pm

We have maintained relationships with all of our former au pairs and all of them have come to visit at least once since leaving. In the meantime, we make Skype calls, exchange letters & photos and make certain they remember each of the special au pairs who have lived with us.

One of our au pairs got both of my children a teddy bear from Build-a-Bear store and recorded her voice telling them “Goodnight, [name]. I love you!” They love them and still, two years later, press the button to hear her voice all the time.

Returning HM June 21, 2014 at 12:19 am

One of our favorite APs gave us a photo album that allowed her to record a message on each page. It was amazing. She made a page for each child, talking about all the things she loved to do with them and then giving them some words of advice and messages of love and affection. She made a page also for my husband and me and then a page for the special trips and experiences we all had shared as a family. The final page included pictures of her German family when they came to visit and our family as well, and she talked about how she now has two families. It was an amazing, beautiful, incredibly creative album, and the children still pull it out and listen to it three years later. It’s lovely to have it as a very present reminder of our special year together.

I think the album was from Hallmark.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 21, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Little kids don’t understand goodbyes. It can be hard for toddlers to transition, but I think it’s harder for the HP to say goodbye to a beloved AP, knowing that there will be stormy days ahead while the child(ren) adjust.

AP #2 recently returned for a visit. She lived with us for 18 months while child #2 was 4-5. He has absolutely no recollection of her as his AP, even though she was fantastic with him – outside playing, asking to take him to movies in her free time, and full of enthusiasm for her job. Now that he’s a teenager, he is a stranger to her, too.

melanie June 22, 2014 at 8:22 am

It was my bigger question when I had to leave the 3 kids I was taking care of. I was the first Au Pair also and I had a very strong relationship with the family (still do by the way) – the kids where 6, 4 and 21 months when I left and I was there when the little was born. So he was the only person besides his parents who ever took care of him. I stayed 22 months so we shared a lot.

It was really hard to prepare the kids for my departure. With the parents we worked hard to make it easier for everybody. The big one understood better than the others for sure but it was hard on her too. The little one didn’t understand anything, he just took it as it went. It was harder for the second girl cause we had a special bound.
They were hard on me, on the parents and on the new Au Pair. They were expressing their feelings on us.
We try to put words on their feelings, to explain the situation with simple words.
I made an album about my 22 months with them and I wrote a special note for each of the kids but also for the parents. I know they still look at it sometimes. I think it’s important to create souvenirs for the kids.
I needed to tell them that it was not such a goodbye but a “see you soon”. I told them I loved then so much, that I would never forget them, that even far away (I’m French) they would always be in my heart, that we could skype whenever they wanted to.
The hard time was maybe at the beginning when we announced that I would be leaving in a few months but then they accepted it.
What is important I think it’s to keep in touch, we skyped as often as we can. I’ve visited them 3 times already, and the kids haven’t forgotten me (it was my biggest fear).

Good luck ! Saying goodbye is never easy … but the relation we had with those kids is forever even though it fades away with time.

Host Mom in the City June 22, 2014 at 8:34 am

Well first of all, this au pair should be absolutely commended for being so sweet and thoughtful. The family is surely lucky to have had her! One of the things we’ve always done from the beginning of an au pair’s arrival is explain to the kids about the program so that they know right from the start that we only get to share our lives with this special person for a year. We also have always kept in touch with former au pairs on Skype and by sending packages, so even if the kids don’t remember the au pair specifically because they were so young, they still enjoy the relationship we have with this special Skype person that sends them candy ;)

So there’s no reason it has to be a permanent goodbye, just a change. I would suggest talking to them about how you are excited to see them on Skype, perhaps to have them visit you in your own country, and to exchange some packages. I love the idea of recording your voice in a keepsake of some kind!

But also, kids adjust surprisingly quickly. I was very worried about the au pair switch after our first beloved au pair, but the kids “forgot” her quickly. I really don’t mean that to sound harsh, and I truly believe that even they don’t remember her as a person, that the impact she made on them in making them feel loved and special for a year will remain forever. But it was much more difficult for me to get over her than it was for the kids! Probably the best thing you can do is maintain a smooth transition, just as it sounds like you’re trying to do. And maintain that relationship when you get back home! My favorite thing about the program absolutely has been getting to know our first au pair as she matures and has her own life. She’s now the same age as I was when she first arrived in our home! Such a great part of the program :)

Hope you have a great transition back to home and bless you for being so thoughtful!

Skny June 22, 2014 at 10:26 am

I love the photo album and scrapbook idea. One Au pair made us one and my girls always ask us to read. Also, this same Au pair is always chatting with them on Skype. While they have forgotten a lot lf what they did together, they still adore her

BackHome June 22, 2014 at 4:52 pm

About a month or two before I left the older one (5 at that time) started to cry out of the blue every now and then telling me how sad she was that I had to leave and how much she was gonna miss me. And she told me how sad she had been after her last AuPair had left. I told her we could still see each other on skype and she could send me pictures and letters and that some day I would come back to visit and along with a few minutes of cuddling that usually made her feel better. When they dropped me off at the airport she was crying her eyes out – I’ll never forget the security guy telling me “Oh, you’re leaving one BIG fan behind”…
The little one (3) was totally different. It took her a while to adjust when I first got there but then she got really attached to me – my host mom always said that we had a special connection. When they dropped me off at the airport she was super silly – probably because she didn’t know how to deal with her Mom and her sister crying and because she didn’t understand she was not gonna see me for a pretty long time… A couple of days later she started to ask when I was gonna come back and even a year later she’d say “Mommy, I miss …. I love her SOO much!”
While the older one got along well with the new AP pretty quick the little one had a hard time adjusting. She had nightmares a lot, didn’t sleep through the night for a while and didn’t want to leave her Mom’s side. I found it kind of hard to know that she was having a hard time because of me and I couldn’t be there to make her feel better… I’m not sure if there’s something I could have done to make the transition easier for her…
We occasionally skype and send letters, Birthday packages and emails and almost 2 years after I returned home I went back to visit – it kind of felt as if I had never left. It was amazing how excited they were to see me and being able to cuddle and hug and kiss them again was the best feeling ever!

CapitolHostMom June 23, 2014 at 12:08 pm

I show my son photos of his former Au pair and tell him stories about her sometimes. It’s the same way I talk about relatives who live out of state. Also, she left him a shell that sits on his dresser. She has a similar one, they found them together one day at the beach. While he will surely not remember her, he has been positivly impacted by her love and affection while she was here. I think it’s important for host parents to tell their outgoing au pairs this because they are the ones with the lasting memories.

Emma June 23, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I had a similar situation when it was time for me to leave my host family. For the older brother, I was the second au pair and he remembered the first one. We were in touch with her for the two years I was there and I helped him Skype with her, write her letters and send pictures he colored etc. The younger sister was only 18 months when I arrived and did not remember the first au pair – she “grew up” with me. During my two years with my host family they booked a 3 week trip to my home country for all of us, so that I could show them around and they could meet my family, and my family could meet them. When it was time for me to leave I told the kids that I had lived with them for so long and it was time for me to go back home to my mommy and daddy who missed me very much. I think that helped since they knew how far away my family actually was. I am still in touch with them after 3 years, I visit them at least once a year, we Skype and Facetime and every time I talk to them I miss them so much it hurts…

WarmStateMomma June 25, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Our first AP gave our daughter a handmade scrapbook filled with photos of our daughter’s first year and messages in the AP’s language. She obviously spent a lot of time on it, so we don’t let Grabby Hands look at it too often now. Oddly, there are no photos of the AP with the baby. Everyone on this site knows of my frustration with AP#1, but she genuinely loved my child and that means a lot. We will keep the book safe until Grabby Hands is older and we will only share the good memories of AP#1.

After AP#1 left, she sent my daughter a board book into which she had worked photos of my daughter into the scenes. Grabby was delighted although she didn’t understand who sent it (again, the AP didn’t include photos of herself with the baby).

Our former exchange students made a video with still photos and video clips from their year, and added their own funny messages. They also left behind letters for us to discover in which they privately poured their hearts out. I keep those letters with our most sentimental/irreplaceable family photos.

Saying goodbye is terribly hard, but something tangible can be a huge comfort to the ones you leave behind. It’s a reminder of your love for them. The fact that a person they loved so much loves them back will make them feel special.

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