au pair

Au Pair problems: Preventing and solving potential Au Pair problems

During the Au Pair program, it is possible that some problems between Au Pair and Host Family might occur.

Having an Au Pair or being an Au Pair can be difficult at times, but this doesn’t mean that issues can’t be solved. 

In this article, we have collected a series of common problems for both Au Pairs and Host Families while also giving you practical tips to solve them and have a successful Au Pair experience. 
 
au pair problems
You are currently living with your Au Pair / Host Family but something went wrong? There are potential problems that may occur during an Au Pair stay. These can be related to language difficulties, cultural shock, misunderstandings, insecurities and the violation of the Au Pair program definition from one or both sides. 

In this article, we are presenting specific situations that might occur and providing you with possible solutions for both parties. 

Common problems for an Au Pair

 
Problem: You agree on your stay with a Host Family but they seem to ignore further emails and phone calls.
 
Solution: Due to the big number of Host Families registering every single day, the chances of finding a suitable Host Family are really high. Make sure you contact several families until you find the perfect match for you. On your side, respect your promises and be open with the Host Family. If you have changed your mind, please let the Host Family know before they move further with the process, so that they still have time to find somebody else.
 
Problem: You feel homesick, you find it hard to make friends and you miss your family and friends back home.
 
Solution: Feeling homesick while you’re abroad is completely normal. The new adventure might be a bit overwhelming at the beginning, but this doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying your time as an Au Pair. In our Au Pair Wiki, you can find useful articles about making friends abroad and dealing with homesickness, which might be very helpful. Remember you can always talk about it with your Host Family and let them help you! 
 
Problem: You feel verbally harassed or abused by the family in any way.
 
Solution: If you feel uncomfortable with the way the family treats you, try to talk about it with them so that they get to know how you feel. If you feel unable to talk about it, please try to find a person you trust and who can help you. This may be an Au Pair agency or friends and family at home. 
 
If you still cannot find common ground with the Host Family, then you might want to start thinking about terminating the contract. Think about all the possible consequences before canceling the Au Pair contract: for example, your visa might expire, if you do not find a new Host Family in time. 
 
Nonetheless, if you feel uncomfortable about the situation, do not stay with the Host Family, as the situation might get worse.
Do not hesitate to report to the police if you feel the family's attitude has crossed the line. 
 
Problem: You are too exhausted after every working day because of the amount of working hours, not enough free time, too many tasks.
 
Solution: If the tasks given to you are not stated in the contract or were not discussed before, or if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of workload, try and talk to the Host Family and explain your situation. The Host Family may think you feel fine if you don't share the problem. 
 
Discuss the working hours with them. Remember that you are responsible for tasks related to childcare as well as some light housework, so if you get assigned different tasks that were not discussed previously, then refer to the contract when talking to the Host Family about it.
 
Problem: You find it very hard to learn the language of the Host Country and to communicate with the family.
 
Solution: Don’t be afraid to speak more! Get involved in the family’s conversations and ask questions. Show interest in the culture of the Host Country and find out what the passions and hobbies of the family are. Keep in mind that you should speak clearly and slowly at the beginning and repeat yourself if necessary. Make also sure you also have enough time to attend a language course to improve both grammar and spoken language.
 
Problem: The Host Family seems to be different from what you have expected according to their profile. 
 
Solution: Before choosing a Host Family, organize several calls to get an impression of them. Maybe you could also ask to speak to past Au Pairs of the family, so that you can get an idea from them and decide whether they might be the perfect fit for you or not. Don't hesitate to ask specific questions and express your expectations and requirements in detail.
 
Problem: Your educational methods differ from the Host Family’s and the family doesn’t agree with them.
 
Solution: People might have different opinions about how to educate children. Even though you may have different educational methods in mind and could bring some new ideas to the table, the Host Family will always determine the way they would like to educate their children. Discuss this matter with the Host Family, be honest about your issues but always keep in mind that the Host Family has the final word. 
 
Also remember that the Au Pair is NOT allowed to employ corporal punishments in any circumstance! 
 
Problem: The cultural differences seem to be bigger than expected. 
 
Solution: Read and discuss about the culture of the host country before your arrival as well as after. The idea of the Au Pair program is cultural exchange, so you should be open-minded and willing to learn about a new culture.
 
Problem: The Host Family doesn't pay the required amount of pocket money. 
 
Solution: The pocket money sum should be stated in the Au Pair contract. If the Host Family doesn't respect the contract, you need to discuss this problem with them and refer to the contract.
 
Problem: The children don't accept you as their Au Pair. 
 
Solution: The situation is new for the children and they will need some time to adapt. It can be really difficult for them to accept a new person if they are used to spend a lot of time with their parents or with people that are familiar to them. Have a Skype-call with your future Host Children: they can get a first impression of you so it will not be that overwhelming for them when you join their family. 
 
Once you are living with the Host Family, try to get involved with as many family activities as possible. This way, the children will recognize you as a family member, not as a substitute for the parents. Give them some time to get used to your company and try to communicate with them more often. This will build trust in a shorter time.  
 
Problem: Your Host Family doesn’t allow you to invite people over.
 
Solution: Make it clear from the beginning with your Host Family whether you are allowed to invite people over or not. You have to respect these restrictions and talk to the Host Family in case of any disagreement.
 
Problem: You have special diet requirements which are different from the Host Family’s. 
 
Solution: Nowadays, it is normal to follow vegetarian/vegan lifestyles or have certain allergies that lead to food limitations. Generally, we recommend indicating this information in the profile or discussing it during the Au Pair interview. We advise to mention details about meals and diet requirements in the Au Pair contract as well. 
 
Despite your food preferences, if you decide to live in a non-vegetarian family, you should be ready to prepare meals with meat for kids. If the Host Family and the kids got used to these eating habits, they will not want to exclude meat or other animal products from their diets. 

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Common problems for a Host Family

 
Problem: The Au Pair takes advantage of the program to live abroad without having to pay rent and is not actually interested in the Au Pair experience.
 
Solution: Before hiring an Au Pair, get a good idea about the person. Organize several Skype talks to make sure the candidate shows interest in the program, tries to get your children's attention and wants to keep in touch with you and build a relationship.
 
Problem: The Au Pair agrees on his/her stay with a Host Family but seems to ignore further emails and phone calls.
 
Solution: Due to the big number of Au Pairs registering every single day, the chances of finding a suitable one are really high. Make sure you contact several candidates until you find the perfect match for your family. 
 
Problem: The Au Pair refuses to speak in a foreign language and isn’t able to communicate.
 
Solution: Encourage your Au Pair to speak! Involve him/her in your conversations and ask questions. Show interest in your Au Pair's culture and life in her/his home country and find out what his/her passions are. Keep in mind that you should speak clearly and slowly at the beginning and repeat if necessary. Make also sure your Au Pair has enough time to attend a language course to improve both grammar and spoken language.
 
Problem: The Au Pair overuses the Internet and has always his/her smartphone, tablet or laptop around.
 
Solution: An Au Pair should not use the Internet while working and taking care of the children. You should make this rule very clear. Nevertheless, the use of the Internet during the Au Pair's free time should not be forbidden. You have to understand the Au Pair's need to communicate with his/her family and friends back in the home country. You can discuss this matter before the Au Pair stay begins and state the conditions clearly in the Au Pair contract
 
Problem: The Au Pair spends most of the time on the phone and makes expensive international calls, because he/she misses family and friends
 
Solution: Talk to the Au Pair and make some rules for Internet and phone use. Skype could be a great solution for the Au Pair to talk and "see" his/her family during the time abroad. As a Host Family, you can support the Au Pair by creating a good and welcoming environment in different situations. In order to keep the Au Pair busy, you should encourage her/him to join some activities and meet new people. By joining a language course, the Au Pair will not only improve his/her language skills, but also meet people who are in a similar situation.
 
Problem: The Au Pair seems to be different from what you have expected according to his/her profile. There might have been wrong references in the profile. 
 
Solution: Before choosing an Au Pair, organize several calls to get a broad impression. Interviews play an important role and references may help to decide whether the candidate may be your perfect Au Pair or not. Don't hesitate to ask specific questions and express your expectations and requirements in detail.
 
Problem: You don’t agree with the Au Pair’s educational methods.
 
Solution: People might have different opinions about how to educate children. But remember that you, as the parents, will always determine the way you want to educate your children. If you don’t like the way your Au Pair behaves with your kids, discuss this matter with her/him, be honest about your issues and depending on how serious the situation is, decide how to proceed.
 
Problem: The Au Pair is using streaming websites or downloading illegally.
 
Solution: The Au Pair might be unaware that this is illegal in some countries. As a Host Family, make sure you let your Au Pair know about this, so that she/he knows how to respect the country's law. 
 
Problem: The Au Pair doesn't care about personal hygiene, the Au Pair’s room is dirty.
 
Solution: Personal hygiene differs from country to country. Get informed about cultural differences and talk to your Au Pair about this problem. Maybe you could also establish some house rules to avoid certain behaviours.
 
Problem: The Au Pair goes out every night and is tired at work.
 
Solution: The Host Family should respect the way the Au Pair chooses to spend his/her free time. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t affect the way he/she performs daily duties. Discuss this situation with your Au Pair and try to find a solution together. 
 
Problem: The Au Pair has a driving license but no driving experience.
 
Solution: Take your time to drive the Au Pair around to show him/her the area and let her/him practice so that they can get used to the car. Provide your Au Pair with the security he/she needs. If it doesn't work, think about public transport.
 
Problem: The cultural differences seem to be bigger than expected. 
 
Solution: Read about the culture of the home country of your Au Pair before his/her arrival as well as after. The idea of the Au Pair program is cultural exchange so, even if the Au Pair needs to learn about your culture, you should also be open-minded and willing to learn about a new culture.
 
Problem: Your children don't accept the Au Pair. 
 
Solution: The situation is new for the children and they will need some time to adapt. It can be really difficult for them to accept a new person if they are used to spend a lot of time only with you or with people they are familiar with. Have a Skype-call with your future Au Pair and let your children participate: they can get a first impression of the Au Pair, so it will not be that overwhelming for them when he/she joins the family. 
 
Once the Au Pair has arrived, try to get him/her involved with as many family activities as possible. This way the children will recognize the Au Pair as a family member, not as a substitute for the parents. Give them some time to get used to him/her and try to explain to them why there is a new person in the house living with them. This will help to build trust in a shorter time.  
 
Problem: The Au Pair invites guests over.
 
Solution: Make it clear from the beginning whether the Au pair is allowed to invite people over or not so that he/she gets to know the family's rules. The Au Pair must respect these restrictions and talk to the Host Family in case of any disagreement.
 
Problem: You have just discovered that the Au Pair has special diet requirements. 
 
Solution: Many young people nowadays follow vegetarian/vegan lifestyles or have certain allergies that lead to food limitations. Generally, we recommend indicating this information in the profile or discussing it during the Au Pair interview. We advise to mention details about meals and diet requirements in the Au Pair contract as well. 
 
Despite his/her food preferences, if the Au Pair decides to live in a non-vegetarian family, he/she should be ready to prepare meals with meat for kids.

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Tips for effective feedback

While discussing the issues, listen carefully to your Au Pair/Host Family and try to avoid monologues. Below are some tips that can help you express constructive feedback:
  • Your statements should be substantial and include examples or refer to specific situations
  • Use the “I”- Perspective
  • Describe the qualities you want to criticize without being judgmental
  • Criticize the action and not the person
  • Stay objective and positive
  • Talk also about positive aspects and express praise  
au pair problems
Remember that terminating the relationship should always be the last option. Give your Host Family or Au Pair time to adapt to the new situation. If you can’t work it out, do not forget about the notice period stated in the Au Pair contract
 
If you have any other questions during the Au Pair stay, check our FAQ page or our Au Pair WIKI


My Au Pair stay went wrong! Can you help me?
We always recommend to have an honest conversation with your Host Family about the problems occurred and find a solution together. Most of the troubles can be solved through communication and feedback! If you can’t find a way out, you can consider contract termination. We recommend you to respect the notice period that is mentioned in your Au Pair contract. During this time both you and your Host Family can find an alternative solution. E.g. you can reactivate your profile at AuPair.com and try to find another Host Family. Be supportive to each other in any case.  AuPair.com can’t help you personally in this case as we are an online matching agency with no external offices in the host countries.
We can’t get along with our new Au Pair. What should we do?
Try to speak honestly with your Au Pair about the problems occurred and find a solution together. Most of the troubles can be solved through feedback and conversation! If the case is too serious and you can’t find a way out, you can terminate the contract. Don’t forget about the notice period that is mentioned in your Au Pair contract. During this time both sides can find a solution to the problem. Try to be supportive of each other in such cases. 


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