First, plan to pick up the au pair at the airport. She is typically anxious, excited and nervous about her arrival. So, having a family member pick her up is a nice way to welcome her and ease her anxiety. Be certain to coordinate in advance with the au pair about her flight, where to pick her up, who will be picking her up, what they will be wearing, etc. It is not uncommon for an au pair to wander aimlessly around the airport, so be on the lookout!
The night the au pair arrives she is typically exhausted due to traveling and time adjustments. So, focus the time on completing 3 key tasks: Getting her belongings into her room, getting the au pair something to eat/drink, and scheduling a time to connect in the morning. It is also a very nice touch to have a calling card ready for the au pair to call home and let her family know she arrived safely. (Be certain to have a small gift in her room or a welcome sign from the kids!)
In the morning, plan to be home with the au pair. This is the care taker of your children, so it is worth spending a few days to make certain they get acclimated. Be prepared for a busy day and an even busier weekend.
Here is a list of topics to cover on the first weekend together:
• The schedule , house guidelines and emergency contact information
• Home tour- be certain to highlight how appliances work such as the stove, dishwasher, disposal and laundry. Not all countries have the same appliances. Also of particular interest in the phone, where to take messages, and her cell phone. Be sure to p rogram into the phone all important numbers.
• Kid stuff – talk about their likes, dislikes, eating patterns, sleeping patterns, personalities, challenges, discipline, key things the family is working on, etc. Review any data that you want her to share on a daily basis. It is recommended that you ask your au pair to keep a daily activity log in a notebook.
• Casually hang out with the kids. Let the au pair observe the family dynamics so she understands how your family operates. This is also the family’s chance to show model behavior. Remember, the au pair will take cues from the parents.
• Neighborhood tour: Show places of interest for both the au pair and your children. For the kids, be sure to review where they go to school, nearby parks, places for activities (gymnastics, dance classes, karate), the library, museums, friends houses and more. For herself, show movie theaters, the mall, local hangouts, workout facilities, and school. Be certain to show her where you live on a map and provide written directions as well. Also, be certain you point out the local social security office — she will need to go get her card.
• Test driving: Test the au pairs driving skills and plan to take her to the local DMV.
• Plan to have dinner together: Watch how she interacts with the children. Be certain to plan on including her in making dinner so that she understands she must participate and not simply be waited on. This is a common complaint from many host families.
• Connect with other au pairs. Ask the au pair to call other au pairs that just arrived. Try and plan activities for the au pair so she can quickly make friends. Most girls like to meet other girls from their home country. So, always start with same country introductions first.
TIP: Do whatever you can to help your au pair find friends! While your focus is certainly your family and your kids, if your au pair is unhappy on a personal level, it will creep into her job and responsibilities. So, take time to help make connections between your au pair and other au pairs in the area. It will make everyone’s lives a lot more enjoyable for the year!