Here we are, your Au Pair experience
is getting started. Are you excited? But most important, are you ready?
We know that the first days can be particularly tough: a new home, a new environment to deal with, and your Host Kids won’t make it easier. If you applied for the Au Pair program
, then you’d probably gained a lot of experience in childcare in the past: you used to play with your siblings or babysit kids from your neighborhood. In this case, you’ve already known that dealing with kids is a job of great responsibility
, not only because they are little pests and sweet troublemakers, but also because they really look up to adults as their role models. Every person who works with children will more or less directly influence their life as you will do as an Au Pair.
Whether you are a person who strives to have everything under control or you’re more of an impulsive type who likes to be taken by surprise, we collected some useful tips and information which can help you with your Au Pair experience. It’s not about studying how to be an Au Pair, but it’s more about being prepared for different aspects of your experience. Of course you won’t find the best solution for every situation in these books, even if we hope that this list could help you in gaining more confidence about the childcare topic.
The best way to delve into childcare literature is to divide this broad field into different categories. First of all, there are two main perspectives
from which you can look at this topics: on the one hand you can read and study material about taking care of kids, on the other hand you can learn from texts primarily written for children. If you think about children’s literature, plenty of examples of stories told for children containing a universal valid moral will come to your mind. Let’s focus on the first perspective and let’s find out together what you can read in order to be inspired during your Au Pair stay
Psychology and strategies
Back to basics! If you want to start learning a bit more about kids, why don’t you start with the basics? Being fresh from school, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to revise some biology and science!
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Brain (2011) by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, starts from neuroscience concepts to clarify the structure of the child’s brain, and its development. Thanks to its scientific background, the book explains how a kid is more likely to react in a certain way (tantrums will be your daily bread) and helps the reader in finding good strategies for supporting the child’s growth.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (1995) by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, it’s a classic! Divided into chapters which cover different aspects of parenting, this books focuses on strategies and techniques about Helping Children Deal with their Feelings, Alternatives for Punishment and Encouraging Autonomy. As an Au Pair, you can get a lot of useful tips about how to deal with your Host Kids not as a parent but as an external helper.
Positive Discipline: The Classic Guide to Helping Children Develop Self-Discipline, Responsibility, Cooperation, and Problem-Solving Skills (2006) by Jane Nelsen. The title just explains itself. Aimed to instruct parents, this manual is a gold mine for those of you who would like to improve the pedagogical approach with their Host Kids.
The concept of emotional intelligence is getting more and more popular nowadays. You’ve probably heard about how important it is for people to develop this kind of attitude in the everyday life. The father of this term, Daniel Goleman, dedicated one of his books to kids: Building emotional intelligence: practices to cultivate inner resilience in children (2004, with Linda Lantieri). The development of emotional intelligence is the key for a happy future and Goleman explains how empathy and being a good emotion-manager can improve everyone’ social skills, including the kids’.
Changing our direction a little bit, we recommend a very interesting reading: What to Do When You’re Scared and Worried: A Guide for Kids (2004), by James J. Crist, is a book that deals with the most commons fears and worries in a child’s mind, explaining how to avoid and to overcome them. Knowing where your fear comes from, can help you facing it and of course it’s true for kids as well!
Children with special education needs (SPED)
During your school time, you’d probably heard about this acronym: SPED means Special Education Needs
, an umbrella term which covers different types of disabilities: learning disabilities (e.g. dyslexia), communication, emotional and behavioral disorders (e.g. ADHD), physical disabilities, and developmental disabilities (such as the autistic spectrum including autism and Asperger syndrome and intellectual disability) and many others. When applying to the Au Pair program
, you can say whether you’d be willing to take care of these kids or not. If that is your case, then it’s always recommendable to be prepared, since the situations could be very specific. Your Host Family would probably have useful hints for you
and we prepared some tips as well.
As the modern pedagogy teaches us, the school’s and the society’s perspective should now focus on the individual’s unique needs, where individualization is the key. As an Au Pair you should find a way to let your Host Kids find their own unique way to express themselves, whereas adapting the “normal system” is not the right choice. So, here you are some books you can read to feed your brain!
Can you see me? (2019), by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott, talks about a young girl who suffers from autism. Through her eyes, every reader will see how she deals with her difference, when it comes to building friendships at school. This books is very interesting because it breaks some stereotypes about autism and everyone should read it!
If you are interested more in a manual-style book, The Complete Learning Disabilities Handbook: Ready-to-Use Strategies and Activities for Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities (1989) is what we can suggest you. Joan M. Harwell and Rebecca Williams Jackson wrote a classic guide for teachers, but actually useful for everyone. It contains tips and interesting information who can help you getting your first steps into special education.
Fish in A Tree (2015) by Lynda Mullaly Hunt delves into dyslexia and reading problems through the eyes of the protagonist Ally. Her experience lights up this delicate topic, with a readable style for a fun reading.
Last but not least, we close this category with a TV-series, Atypical (2017) where Sam, a high-school autistic guy, guides us to his everyday life. We follow him through rough and good times and in the end we can really understand how relative the concept of being atypical is.
Books for Nannies
Let’s now focus on you! Nannies
and Au Pairs are a very important part of the family: taking care of the kids, they play a pivotal role in their education, being the direct model
for them. But how can you be a good Au Pair? There is no single answer to this question but we can provide you with useful readings, where you might find a good response.
Nanny to the Rescue!: Straight Talk and Super Tips for Parenting in the Early Years by Michelle LaRowe (2006) gives advice to both parents and nannies who can face the very same challenges in their everyday life.
The Best Nanny Handbook: The Ultimate Guide For Nannies (2008), by Emma Kensington, gives hints to childcare, successful communication and everything that can be useful for a Nanny or an Au Pair. It could be your bible!
Supernanny: How to Get the Best From Your Children (2005) by Jo Frost is very similar: all the common habits in a kid’s life are discussed, like mealtime, bedtime, quality time in general and, again, social skills.
The Professional Nanny (1988) by Monica Bassett, aims at preparing specialists who are about to become a Nanny or a Child caregiver. It can be a good guide to learn the basics, if you are interested in continuing your studies in the education field.
What do you think so far? Have you found some interesting input? Your Host Parents will surely appreciate your effort
in preparing yourself for the Au Pair experience. Maybe you can share with them some of your new findings and don’t forget that everything you learn from your Au Pair stay can be useful for your future. Check out our series about jobs after the Au Pair stay
Do you have any tips about books and movies that can enrich our inspirational list? Feel free to leave us a comment below!