If you take the time to prepare your children for your Au Pair before her arrival, it can help ease the transition to a first-time Au Pair. (Or in our case, from nanny to Au Pair).
Whether changes are good or bad, the fact of the matter is that change in life is inevitable. I, for one, absolutely hate change because it usually means I lose control over a situation.
Regardless of my disdain for change, it’s our job as parents is to help our children through the process. If I can teach them to deal with change now, they will be better equipped to cope with it when they’re older.
Hosting an Au Pair is a big change for the entire family, but in particular, it’s vital to prepare your children for your new Au Pair. Not only does this help your children learn to cope with change, but it will help your Au Pair bond with your kids.
Luckily for all involved, this change is for the better. For once, this is a chance I can be excited about!
Change Affects Children Differently Than Adults
Some children may be too young or too immature to express their feelings about a change, leaving them frustrated and causing them to act out (something I know I want to avoid at all cost!).
If you can mentally prepare your children for your Au Pair’s arrival, it can become a good exercise in teaching your children how to cope with and work through change.
The first difficult hurdle you may face when making the transition to hosting an Au Pair is transitioning child care providers.
In our case, we had to end our two-year relationship with our part-time nanny. My three-year-old son had grown so attached to her, he would ask about her constantly on the weekends. He continued to inquire about her for at least a week after she was no longer our nanny.
Even though he lacked the words to express his feelings, I knew he missed her and her absence was hard on him.
A good step for moving on is to acknowledge your child’s feelings about the loss of (or change from) a former child care provider. Discuss the reason for the change in detail A dialogue in regards to this initial change could go like this:
Parent: “Are you sad that (nanny) isn’t coming to play with you anymore?”
Child: “Yes. She was fun. Why isn’t she coming anymore?”
Parent: “We are sad too, and we will miss her. Yes, she was a lot of fun. She’s not coming any more to play with you because someone new is coming to live with us and be a part of our family; her name is Kati. She is going to take care of you and play with you instead of (nanny).”
Help Children Transition- Put a Face to Your Au Pair’s Name
As with anything in regards to children, repetition is often a good way to help them to remember things and keep ideas fresh in their minds. Introducing your Au Pair into the equation will help them to understand the transition and put a face with the name.
If you included your children in your Skype interviews, they will have some familiarity with her. But, printing out a photo will also serve as a visual aid when referring to her. Place your Au Pair’s photo in a highly-visible place that your children associate with happy feelings (i.e. a playroom or on the kitchen table). This will help them associate her with family time and positive emotions.
We printed out our Au Pair’s photo and showed it to our three-year-old son every day. We would ask him, “Who’s this?” And he would say, “That’s Kati, come on!” (If he had been older and more articulate, he would have said, “Duh mom – I know who it is – stop asking me.”) Telling him she was coming to live with us and to play with him and his brother led to his saying things like, “I’m going to go see Kati.” and “Kati’s coming soon.” I could tell he was getting excited and was starting to grasp the concept, and we were glad that he seemed to be looking forward to her arrival as much as we were.
Prepare Your Children For Your Au Pair By Including Them In Your Own Preparations
We took the opportunity to include our children in working on our Au Pair’s bedroom. We would tell him that it was Kati’s room and she was going to stay in that room when she came to live with us. He helped pick out accessories for the room in his favorite color (pink – I know he’s a boy, but he loves that color). This helped him to have some control in a situation he had no control over (a very helpful thing for toddlers to have to cut down on the number of daily meltdowns).
You can use a similar strategy to prepare your children for your Au Pair. If your kids are into crafts, you could let them make some crafty decorations for your Au Pair’s room.
(Ironically enough, even though I’m a designer, my son isn’t really into arts and crafts).
Another great way to help your children through the change of hosting an Au Pair is to focus on the positives. Make sure to emphasize their routines will stay consistent, as all children thrive on consistency when they know what to expect in their routines (I can relate because I am the same way – a complete control freak). Always have a positive attitude when talking about the Au Pair, and explain to them how their lives will change for the better.
Help Your Children Understand the Benefits
In our situation, having an Au Pair will allow for more fun family outings, it will allow for my three-year-old to have more one-on-one time with mommy as the Au Pair takes care of his baby brother who, right now, needs quite a bit of my attention. If you are making a transition from daycare to an Au Pair, a great benefit to emphasize might be the children will be able to be home all day with their own toys and will have someone all to their self to play with.
The fact of the matter is hosting an Au Pair for the first time is a big change for any family. And although you and your significant other may be over the moon about the prospect, be sure to take your children’s feelings into consideration. Help prepare your children for your Au Pair by getting them as excited about the change as you are. In the end, you’ll be glad that you used this transition as teaching moment to help your children learn how to process change. And your Au Pair will be thankful for the work you’ve done to help ease her transition into your family as well.