Your Summer Re-Set Conversation: What should you cover?

by cv harquail on June 2, 2014

Summertime, and the living is… different. 

Whether it’s our kids’ schedule, our own work schedule, or even just the return of the Good Humor Man, the start of summer opens up a chance to adjust how things are going with our Au Pairs.

3811864581_5b18b901ea_zAs our family’s patterns change, we need to bring our au pairs along with us. It’s our job to help our au pairs adjust to the changes in schedules, in weather, in activities, and in children’s growth challenges.  Any one of these changes would merit a conversation with ours au pair, and when the changes all converge at the start of a new season, it’s a great time for a reset conversation.

What’s a Reset Conversation?

A Re-Set Conversation is exactly what it sounds like– it’s a conversation to re-set expectations and routines, so that they fit with the changes in your household.  Think of the re-set conversation as a focused, more in-depth family/au pair meeting.

The main challenge is to re-set the foundation of the routines that your au pair’s schedule– and expections– were originally built around.  

You’ll need to get explicit about what you expect to change with your family and kids, and then discuss and plan along with your au pair how her/his schedule and care should evolve to meet your family’s new needs.

Yes, this is one of those times where it becomes very clear that your Au Pair has to adapt to you. So, it becomes important to focus on the underlying structure that is changing (e.g., from school to day camp) so that it’s clear that it’s the kids care that’s driving these changes, not your whims.

Suggestions for a Reset Conversation:

  • Start with the Big Picture. Outline the whole summer’s schedule week by week, then sketch out the different days’ schedules. This way you set out the frame of what’s already known, allowing you to have a more focused and interactive conversation on how to address these new elements.   This might include:
  • A new daily schedule, with wake-ups, naps, trips to the park, day camp drop off, etc. all lined up.
  • A 12 weekend plan — when you’re going to the shore, when you’ll be at home, when you know you need your au pair for a Saturday night, etc.
  • New weekly schedules, with M-F plans if the days have different activities (e.g., swim lessons on Tues/Thurs)
  • A 10-week outline of what happens which week (e.g., Harry Potter camp vs. art camp)
  • A plan for your family vacation & trips
  • A plan for your au pair’s vacation time, if any will be taken in the summer
  • A schedule of visits and guests (Grandma in July, your au pair’s sister the first week of August)
  • Discuss the small pieces together.  If your kids will be taking a bus to day camp, talk about what kinds of drop off and pickup are appropriate for camp, vs. for school. (For us, this has meant ‘sunscreen goes on before they get on the bus’ and ‘Ice Cream only on Fridays, not everyday’.)
  • Keep  the conversation focused. Don’t try to change everything about how your au pair cares for your kids. Focus on the different activities and what they require. Focus on the challenges to the children and what they need.
  • Frame the conversation about learning and growing and adapting.  Remember that your au pair, and you kid(s) have continued to grow and change over the year. Frame the change requests that you make as outcomes of this growth. For example, ‘now that Toddler2 is having playdates, let’s go over the handbook section on playdates so that you know what to expect and how to organize them.”
  • Add some ‘positive’ changes that reflect your au pair’s increased experience and her/his deeper relationship with your kids. For example, if you’ve been impressed by your au pair’s initiative, maybe you can give her a budget and send her to the craft store to buy new supplies for rainy afternoon craft playdates.
  • Capture these changes on paper, so that both you and your au pair have something to help you get reorganized around the new expectations. This may mean adding a  new page or two to your Au Pair Handbook or/and creating a 12-week calendar for the fridge.
  • Before you ask your au pair to reset, reflect on your own expectations. You might need to refresh your assessment of your au pair’s skills, attitudes and interests, to incorporate the ways s/he has grown and changed. Sometimes without a reminder to update, we keep on thinking that our au pair can’t find her way around, can’t use a map, doesn’t really understand English, etc. Make room for some of that growth by reconsidering your beliefs about him or her.


The Summer Reset gives everyone a chance to start refreshed.

With a new schedule, we’ve got the prompts we need to make changes. Some of these changes are necessary, but it’s also okay to add some changes that just make things “better”.

As you look ahead to your family’s summer, what changes are in store?

Are there any changes that you worry might be difficult for your au pair?  

What are the changes you’re looking forward to the most? 


See also:
What’s the cure for “Summer Fever”?
4 Ways to Reduce “Seasonal Schedule Shift Syndrome”
10 Days of Work that Might Surprise Your Au Pair
Is it Cultural, Generational, or just Me

Toy sailboats at Jardin du Luxembourg, by Thomas Ricker
Swimming Time from YoZeFiNe


Caring HP June 2, 2014 at 6:07 pm

I’d like to share a tip shared with me by some HF friends…
As a HF:
Always, in your HF essay and Schedule preview note pre-matching note for the AP that schedules of almost every family will change from time to time, whether predictably or unexpectedly, due to sickness, snow days, teacher work days, other school closures, music or karate or sports teachers/coaches changing the schedule, rain checks for soccer games, 1 or other HP having business or other out of town travel, changes in HP work schedule which HP cannot control etc.
Always think about the words you use in describing the schedule. For example instead of saying “AP must work mornings and afternoons Mon-Fri” say “during the days the kids are at School, AP must help get the kids ready for school and will typically be off from __am until __Pm but during the Summer or days where the school is closed or kids are off sick, the AP will be working more day time hours”
Always ask your LCC to remind all APs about this in her Orientation or Monthly meetings.
Always remind your own AP that schedules are your ‘best estimate’ and write DRAFT on top of every schedule as a standing reminder that you dont have a crystal ball.
Always try to give your AP a schedule each week with as much information as you, in good faith know as of that time, and try to preview the weeks ahead with her so she knows in advance which weekends she is free to book out-of-state travel and other fun plans.

As an AP:
Please understand that although we, as HFs wish we had crystal balls sometimes to predict the future, the only predictable thing for most of us is the fact that we cannot predict:( everything.
That’s 1 of the primary reasons many of us spend a lot of money and effort to be in the AP Program.. so we have an extra adult caregiver in the home to help us manage the unpredictability of the above variables. So please understand that HFs schedules will change from time to time.

JenNC June 2, 2014 at 11:16 pm

I will be traveling across country with my aupair and. 3 kids over. A 13 day time period, we will be traveling with a travel trailor, I am really hoping this is an adventure, she is excited about it, and I decided to do it because of her…. I think this is a great way to experience a lot of America… We are literally leaving the east coast and driving west to the west coast. But as we know this will not be an all pleasant trip…. I have an almost 8, 4, and 2 year old….. We will arrive at our destination and my husband will join us shortly after by plane. I am praying for smooth travels but this is going to be very different than our current schedule at home, there won’t be a calendar, it will be go with the flow …… :)

American AP in Germany June 3, 2014 at 5:40 am

Have a great time!! My family and I made a similar cross-country trip when we moved from California to New Jersey, when my sister and I were 1 and 9, respectively. It was a hilarious, harrowing, awful, and FUN journey hahah. I’m sure it will unforgettable for you and your family ;)

Taking a Computer Lunch June 3, 2014 at 6:58 am

Because I match during the summer, I find that every year that the AP countdown mode starts just as I need her to be the most flexible. I have learned to try to be flexible myself. If she wants extra time off to take a friend who’s leaving to the airport, I do my best to accommodate it. I’ll change my weekend hours so she can attend a goodbye party. However, in return, I expect her to have the same attitude toward work as the school year when she had a couple of short shifts (usually 2.5 hours in the AM and after school) surrounded by long stretches of free time.

The good thing about a summer match is that by the time summer camp season rolls around, my AP has become a confident driver, so heading to new places not an issue as long as she has the address.

HRHM June 3, 2014 at 7:27 am

This year is the first time that I am using full time camp even though we have an AP. I find that none of my APs do a great job of transitioning into being the full time “fun boss” from having the day to themselves. I don’t know if they are just not creative enough or disinterested, but none have taken up the challenge of finding fun was to stay engaged and entertained. So rather than use up all my hours for them to sit at the pool daily with their friends and talk while DDs complain about wanting to do something new, this year, the schedule will change very little. They will still have the day to themselves and I will still use my hours on weekends and evenings. It will be interesting to see how that plays out…

ReturnAupair June 3, 2014 at 10:47 am

I dont think you can say that all Aupairs are like that. I enjoyed the Days of because we could do so many things. Like going to the Libary, Go for Icecream, Museum, Playgrounds, Playdates, the Zoo and so much more. We startet the day without any rush. Kids could Sleep a little longer. And we startet with a Big Brakefest.

I think camps are really great, but just because you aupair has no ideas, i would not spend more money.

You should just make the shedule for them. Maybe start with 2 weeks. And then you let her suggsest ideas where she would like to go with the Kids. As a parent i think you have planty of ideas where to go, and help her.

HRHM June 3, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I agree, I don’t think it is all APs. What I have found is usually, at the the start of their year, in July when they arrive, my new AP is full of energy and excited to see new things and do new things with the kids. However, by June, when school lets out and the AP is “out of practice” with working full straight days, and essentially having short-timers syndrome, what I see is less energy, all the places are old to them, etc.

I don’t have the energy or time or desire to be their activity planner for the summer (I tried that last year and was extremely frustrated by how often my plans weren’t followed anyway) I also found that my last 2 APs were letting their (the AP’s) social desires to dictate what activities got planned. ie. If kids wanted to go to park but AP’s friends were planning a trip to the zoo, then AP took my kids to the zoo because she wanted to hang out with her friends. This scenerio repeated itself more times than I can count, even though I asked for it not to.

At least with camp,I know they are being kept busy with a variety of activities and also have date nights on weekends.

Seattle Mom June 3, 2014 at 2:01 pm

I guess this is one reason to be happy for my AP schedule- we get new APs in January, so by the summer time they are still relatively new and excited to do all the fun summer things in the city with the kids. It helps that it’s pretty dreary throughout the year, and then in the summer the weather is just gorgeous. There are so many cool parks and things to do.

I do break up the summer a bit.. I try not to have more than 3 weeks in a row with no camp or other diversion planned. It helps that my parents are coming for 2 weeks in August, so they will take the AP out with the kids. My parents will do the driving and pay for all kinds of things, but they still need the AP because they don’t really want to be in charge all day. I will take off a day or two while they are here and the AP will have those days off, but then I’ll probably use her in the evening a bit so that I can go out with my parents and leave the kids home.

With my first AP it was really hard because my kids were just 3 1/2 and 1 1/2. We didn’t have my 3.5 year old in camp except for the week the AP was on vacation. And there was a long stretch of summer with no camps or planned activities at all, and AP was working 45 hours per week with both kids- she was used to older DD being in preschool 2 days, so she was still working all 45 hours but had a break from one kid. And then I thought this would be an issue with AP2 so I had both kids in camp (3 mornings per week) for 3 weeks that second summer… and it turned out I had the energizer bunny for an AP and she actually didn’t want the kids in camp, she wanted to take them all over the place and do fun things. She even drove them down to a big water park over an hour away and paid for all their admission, because SHE wanted to go. I used to have to tell her to take the kids straight home to nap after school, because she would just keep them out all day all the time if she could. I’m not really sure what to expect from my current AP… I think she is somewhere in between, and she will probably be fine with a few weeks of unstructured time mixed in with grandparent’s visit and camp.

Angie host mom June 3, 2014 at 6:24 pm

I had my kids draw up the list of things they want to do in the next month and then translated part of it with them for the first week. I think our au pair was a little taken aback that I’d planned out her week with the kids – but I had seen no sign that she had taken any initiative herself to plan it yet. If it goes well, I’ll have her involved in the conversation about next week’s plan, though I’ll still drive it. Hopefully, she’ll get the hang of it and do it herself by the time the summer is over – but if she doesn’t, it’s ok, I can still do the planning with the kids on Sundays before bedtime. Some of the days are chill out days – I think you need to build that in, too. It’s summer!

Alliinny June 3, 2014 at 8:13 am

What good timing for this question! I am about to sit down with my AP to discuss the summer because I’m already concerned about her ability to adjust. In our case the summer is MUCH easier than the rest of the year. My 2 oldest children leave for camp at the end of June and we go away (without our AP) for the last 2 weeks of August so for the entire summer her only job is to care for my youngest who will be at day camp from 9-4 (8-5 including the bus). Easy, right?

Except this week alone she let my little one wander off, theoretically playing in a neighbor’s yard but she ended up inside 3 houses away and I was in a panic! Then she packed her 2 cheese sticks and a banana for lunch because “that’s what she wanted.” She has never been an immature AP, I just think she’s getting lazy and I thinking having to drop my little one at the bus stop, pick her up in the afternoon, walk the dog during the day, shower my little one and make her dinner and babysit on Saturday nights (or any other night we decide to go out) as her entire job for the summer is going to make her even less conscientious.

I’m on the fence – I really, really don’t need her. We were feeling like we should keep her because we made a commitment to the program and I know she wants to extend somewhere on the West Coast. And it will be more expensive to hire a dog walker than it costs to keep our AP (especially during the weeks we’re away on vacation).

So, I guess a serious talk about re-setting expectations is in order! But if she loses track of my baby again I’m kicking her to the curb – literally.

CanadaHostMom June 3, 2014 at 9:05 am

We had a similar situation two summers ago…. We didn’t really “need” our child care provider who was leaving our family in the coming September, but we didn’t want to go back on our commitment to her. She was also slacking a bit as well.

What really helped was reframing her thoughts. We openly acknowledged to her that we didn’t really have enough work to justify keeping her but would love to be able to keep her on for the summer if we could “sort things out”. We asked for her ideas of things she could take on, she too did dog walking, a huge kids’ room & playroom clean out and organize project. Helped in our garden (her idea, she loved gardening) and lots of camp pickup/drop offs. She also committed to one big outing with the kids every other Saturday to give hubby and I a bit of kd free time. It turned out to be an amazing summer!

Taking a Computer Lunch June 3, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Alliiny – you need more than a summer re-set, you need a “Reset Your Attitude” conversation. Don’t waste time in having it. Sit her down, explain what she has done wrong, and explain how you feel like, with the job she is doing now, that you could live without an au pair. Tell her you are aware that she wants to extend with another family and make it clear that you will be doing a write-up of her year that will go in her agency file. Tell her she has an opportunity to prove you wrong but giving your children appropriate food, being engaged when she is with the children.

My recommendation is that when you have a “Reset Your Attitude” conversation with your au pair, that you follow it up in writing and copy your LCC, so your LCC is aware that she gave a growing child 2 cheese sticks and a banana for lunch and that she wasn’t paying attention when the child wandered off. That way your LCC has your complaints in writing, so that if things don’t improve you can call for a mediated rematch conversation.

If she’s only going to spend a couple of hours a day with your youngest child this summer, then give her some other tasks to do – sorting through the playroom toys (one of my least favorite chores is to put all the board game pieces back in the box), dust & tidy up the kids’ bookshelves, sort through the clothes and remove items that are too small (when my kids are away at camp I love to make things disappear) – I generally give my AP a t-shirt or shorts, and say “anything smaller than this should go in a bag for good will – make sure it’s clean before you throw it in the bag.”

Alliinny June 3, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Thanks TACL. That’s a good idea. I don’t always love “confrontation” but better that then simmering resentment! And I should give her a list of to-do’s for the summer, that will make me feel better about keeping her around!

Mimi June 3, 2014 at 10:33 am

We’ve been very fortunate to have a really regular M-F schedule for our APs, but this year with baby #4 due in August (and likely to arrive in mid July) we will have our first schedule change ever.

Before matching, we outlined this change, indicating what would happen during the summer; 2 boys becomes 3 with the oldest at camp periodically and day trips with the grandmas here and there. We live within walking distance of a swimming pond that they can spend the whole day at and there are lots of other kids in the neighborhood with parents around for play dates. We may take a few day trips as a family in lieu of a full vacation this year so I can take a fully paid leave to cover the 3 months we need before the AP can watch the baby.

My maternity leave is going to be a messy schedule and we were very honest in saying we weren’t sure what it would look like. It’s really going to depend on when the baby comes and how that fits in with the start of the school year. We let the AP know that if she wants to take vacation time while I am on maternity leave, HD can take some time off to help me out.

Since the twins are starting school this fall, eventually the AP will be home M-F with the baby, and then have all 4 for an hour/hour and a half until HD and I get home. She has expressed some apprehension with this (I don’t blame her!) and we’ve told her that if there are problems we can look into HD coming home a little early (when he’s not traveling) or after school play dates, help from grandparents, etc. I also work 5 miles from home and can come home for problems or lunch.

The key for us is that we ask very pointed questions about how things are going/working for the APs and remind them that if they don’t like something, they need to let us know or we can’t fix it. We might not make a change that they are 100% happy with, but we will try to come as close as possible. We want to be flexible so that everyone is satisfied.

ReturnAupair June 3, 2014 at 10:53 am

I had a Baby and 3 other Kids under the age of 7. I do not think she should be afraid to have them all 3. I just took the Baby with me and did the same as before. Sure you need to plan more ahead. Pack Diapers, Bottle and so on. But i feel like a Baby is making the whole aupair year more exiting. The Baby i had was really cute and she did not make any differnce if i take here or her parents (since she know me since birth) She smiled at me everytime she saw me.

Mimi June 3, 2014 at 11:37 am

It depends on the kids and my boys are definitely a lot of work. Their age spread (10 y/o and twins who are 5) also means they are into different things, never mind that fights sometimes turn into a MMA style match. :)

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