Our au pairs get an up-close and personal view of our families.
Sometimes they see things we don’t see, maybe even things we don’t want to see for ourselves.
Because au pairs interact with our children when we parents are often not around, and they spend longs days with our kids, they may notice things about our children that might surprise us. Au pairs may see developmental issues, emotional issues, new patterns of behavior, new things learned, new frustrations, and so on.
We hope to hear most of these things in our one-on-one meetings with our au pairs, or at the transitions when they go off duty and we’re back in charge. But what happens when there is an issue about a child that’s hard to bring up? What about when your au pair feels s/he needs to tell you that something more serious might need our attention?
Would you shoot the messenger?
As Kennedy writes:
I’m 22, an American and I Au Pair for a pretty cool family in Germany. I’ve been with them for over 6 months now and I only have 2 months left with them. Things with them have not been perfect but they are nice people and always willing to work with me. They speak almost perfect English and so do the 4 children. Boy 14, Girl 12, Girl 8 and Boy 6. The HF works full-time and the HM works part time but has many activities outside the home.
For the most part the family seems to like me. At the beginning I told them I thought I needed to rematch. Three things were going on:
- They lied to me about living arrangements.
- They don’t follow the German Guidelines for how many hours an Au Pair should work and what duties she is suppose to do. The biggest issue?
- The youngest child has violent outbursts and has other serious behavior problems.
We worked through the first two issues through compromising and it worked out fine for both of us. But we still have some communication issues.
And as I’m coming to the end of my work here I’ve come to the conclusion that the youngest child might have some type of disability that either they did not tell me about or has not been diagnosed. I’m afraid for him because after 7 months it’s obvious to me his violence is not a phase.
The parents blame me for his outbursts, which I think is unfair because I am often the receiver of the violence. For example-when he does not want to go to Tennis he will throw things around the house. He has bitten me when I kept him from attacking his sister. (I had to tell the parents if he ever bites me again I will have to leave this family the next day.) Plus he has other issues with paying attention in school, speech, ect.
That leads me to wonder if he has some type of undiagnosed disorder that the parents are just ignoring? Their parenting style is to “never use negative re-enforcement to correct bad behavior”. Or maybe he is just crying out for more attention from his parents. I’ve worked with children for many years before becoming an Au Pair. I’ve taken several psychology courses in college and high school but of course this in no way makes me an expert. But I believe something may be wrong.
Personally, I care a lot for this family and I want the little guy to get help if he needs it.
My Question for Mothers and Fathers out there is:
How can I broach such a delicate subject with the parents when we have communication issues? Because I will be leaving soon, I may have a window during which I can tell them, but avoid bearing the brunt of their anger, denial or concerns.
I believe some of these communication blocks happened because they do not value my opinion. I am not as educated as they are. But I’m not stupid. I’ve been in college, traveled and I know children. This boy’s behavior is not normal.
How can I make them see that without them “Shooting the messenger” so to speak?
Any advice would be lovely. I’m really looking to see this situation from a different angle.
If you think that this au pair should discuss their son’s anger with the parents-
- How should she bring it up?
- When should she bring it up?
- What can she do to prepare herself, and her host parents, for the conversation?
Image: awry from onenineteen