What if my kids overwhelm her on her first day?

by cv harquail on May 16, 2009

_wp-content_uploads_2009_05_161-417952692-c5a29fd6b3.jpg Request from a host mom:

How do you fellow host parents deal with the excitement your kids have for the new Au Pair?

We all know how it is, the new Au Pair arrives and the kids barely let them go to the bathroom alone!

I feel like I spend the first few days shooing the kids away from the AP. Is this the right thing to do, or does that hurt their developing relationship? If I let them follow the AP from place to place, will the AP feel overwhelmed? Am I simply over-analyzing things? I would love to hear how you all deal with this early phase of the AP-child relationship.

Mom– This is one of those "good problems to have". When your kids are excited about your au pair’s arrival, there are all sorts of ways to channel their energy … they can help her find things, show her around the yard, teach her the names of their special stuffed animals, and more.  I like to get my kids involved in ‘orienting’ the au pair, so that they can be with her and help her at the same time.

I agree, too, that it’s important to give her a little space… and so I tell the kids explicitly "Please let Clara have some quiet time in her room. She needs to call her mom and tell her she’s here safely. We can all be together later."

Then, I remind the kids about our customs/rules, e.g, no going into her room unless you’re invited, knock on the door first, don’t barge into the bathroom if the door is closed, etc.

Not only does it help the kids, but also it tells the au pair that you are thinking about her and that you are managing the kids’ behavior. It helps set a tone of welcome and respect.

We have two additional challenges in our family. First, one child is very excited about cuddling and being cuddled, and so I often need to ask her to give our au pair her "personal space".  I actually have to say things like  "Please let Clara finish her lunch before you climb into her lap. Also, please check with her that she’s feeling like a cuddle."

Second, the other child is much more reserved, and takes her time to warm up to new people. This sets up an interesting contrast between the two, since it might look as though child one adores the new AP and child two dislikes her– when in fact they are both excited, each in her own way.  I point this out as a way to start to show our au pair the differences and similarities between the kids, and encourage her to get to know each one on each one’s own timeframe.

How about you all? What do you do the first few days to manage the excitement of the "brand new" au pair? Please share…

photos by Sara. Nel on Flickr

{ 5 comments }

Franzi May 17, 2009 at 4:19 am

thanks CV for this post! this is exactly what a new AP wants to hear and experience! excited kids who are helping out, and at the same time host parents who let the AP know that there are rules for her privacy and that they are (more or less) followed so that it is up to the AP to decide how far the first day madness will go i.e. it either stops at her room or she can in some alone time tell the kids about her home and her room back home etc.

Jeana May 17, 2009 at 8:06 am

I remind my girls that our aupair is still on “China time” when she arrives. I try to make sure our aupair has time to recover from the time difference, and explain this to my daughters, if I’m asking that they be considerate about being quiet if our aupair is sleeping later than they are, or going to sleep earlier than they are. They understand that, as they’ve traveled to and from China and understand the concept of time differences. I remind them that our bodies need one day for each hour of time difference.

We also have a talk about how our aupair’s first language is Mandarin, and listening to English makes her a little tired, until she’s more comfortable with us. This tones them down just a little bit, but our aupairs are still showered with attention and love from my daughters from day one!

English AuPair January 25, 2010 at 10:12 pm

As an au pair i prefer the children to “overwhelm” me for the first few days. I’d rather that than them to be distant and uncomfortable with me as this would make me more uncomfortable… :) xx

NoVA Host Mom January 25, 2010 at 10:29 pm

English AP, that’s a great observation I would not have realized. I guess it is also a matter of asking the AP what she prefers. When our AP started, our daughter was an infant (2-1/2 mo when 1st arrived, 6mo when 2nd arrived), so this was not an issue. Now she is older and more demonstrative in her preferences. When we get a new AP, she will be 2-1/2 years old and the youngest will be almost a year. Certainly something to consider.

EUROaupair August 27, 2010 at 2:38 pm

When I arrived and the kids were sooo excited to see me it made me feel at home right away. These kids treated me like they had known me their whole lives, which was really sweet.

However, I was a little overwhelmed as the parents never really fended them off at all. I had a one 13 hour flight, 4 hour stopover, then a 10 hour flight to get there and I was exhausted.

The kids were jumping on my bed at 6am the next morning and moving in all their toys to live in my room, going through my suitcase etc. I thought it was adorable, but it happened every day and I felt drained and overwhelmed and I wasn’t giving them my fullest. I just wish the HM&HF had taken them out for an hour or so just so I could get my bearings, or have a nap, in those first few days!

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