For many young people who come to stay in the UK as Au Pairs, it is their first time away from home. Although they will have been excited by the prospect of venturing abroad, seeing and experiencing another culture, for some, once here, the reality is they are far from friends and family and have to speak a different language!
This is both normal and, with a degree of effort and sympathy from the host family, a problem which can be overcome. Rainbow will play its part too, in trying to settle the Au Pair into their new environment as quickly as possible.
Talk to your au pair and be interested.
In truth, there are many families who host on Au Pairs just to help with their busy lifestyles. Of course, an advantage of having an Au Pair is the help, flexibility and support they can provide to your family. But if you merely use an Au Pair as a live in worker, you are not treating your Au Pair properly, and more importantly, you are failing to realise one or the best things about Au Pairs. That they can become real friends, and someone your children often adore!
So apart from making them welcome, the first thing you can do is make time to sit down and chat to your Au Pair about how they feel. Help them to understand their feelings are normal, but that they are doing well and their parents would be proud. It is not rocket science...just be interested in them and their country, listen to their stories of their friends and family. Asking them to prepare one of their favourite dishes from home is an excellent way of making them feel at home, while showing that you are interested in them as an equal.
Rainbow can arrange Au Pair Social Meetings.
One of the things Rainbow can do is put your Au Pair in touch with other Au Pairs in the area they live. If there are a cluster of Au Pairs we have placed in the area, we will arrange a “welcoming committee” to show them around the area, and make new friends. Meeting people of their own age, speaking the same language and simply sharing experiences often quickly counters any anxieties they have about moving to a new, alien environment.
Families too can help with this. Take the time to show your Au Pair around where you live, and integrate them into your usual lifestyle and routines. One of the best tips for bonding with your au pair is to involve them in your weekend family activities such as cooking Sunday lunch for the whole family.
Enrol Your Au Pair at the Local Language School.
As soon as your Au Pair arrives, one of the first things you should do, is help enrol them in a local language course. As soon as they start attending lessons, they will realise that they are not alone in being unable to speak English fluently, but that there are other people in the same boat, going through the same experiences.
The lessons will help give them a weekly structure, enable them to meet fellow language students and also be in contact with other adults who can provide support. In addition there may be clubs and activities for students to participate in, advertised at the language centre.
Remember to include your Au Pair.
One of the most important things when hosting an Au Pair and helping them to socialise, is to include them in your normal family life. At first it is a strange thing to have an unknown person staying with you, but in taking them on, you have you committed to treat them as one of your family and as such, you must remember to make them feel welcome at all times and whenever appropriate, include them in all your activities.
All in all, if you invest time in helping to support your Au Pair socially at the start of their match, you – and them - will be far more likely to have a happy match.