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 Her and be Interested
In truth, there are many families who take on Au Pairs just to help with their busy lifestyles. Of course, an advantage of having an Au Pair is the help 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 she feels. Help her to understand her feelings are normal, but that she is doing well and her parents would be proud. Its not rocket science...just be interested in her and her country, listen to her stories of her friends and family. Asking her to prepare one of her favourite dishes from home is an excellent way of making her feel at home, while showing that you are interested in her.
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 she lives. If there are a cluster of Au Pairs we have placed in the area, we will arrange a “welcoming committee” to show her around the area, and make new friends. Meeting people of her 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 her into your usual lifestyle and routines.
Enrol Her at the Local Language School
As soon as your Au Pair arrives, one of the first things you should do, is help enrol her in a local language course. As soon as she starts attending lessons, she will realise that she is 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 her week structure, enable her to meet fellow language students and also be in contact with other adults who can provide support. In addition there may well be clubs and activities for students to participate in, advertised at the language centre.
Remember to include Her
One of the most important things when hosting an Au Pair and helping her to socialise, is to include her in your normal family life. At first it is a strange thing to have an unknown person staying with you, but in taking her on, you have you committed to treat her as one of your family and as such, you must remember to make her feel welcome at all times and whenever appropriate, include her in all your activities.
All in all, if you invest time in helping to support your Au Pair socially at the start of her visit, you – and she - will be far more likely to have a happy Au Pair stay.