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How to Help Your Homesick Au Pair

If you're hosting an au pair, you know it's a unique, beneficial experience for both your family and your au pair. While you gain access to flexible child care and life-changing intercultural exposure for your kids, the young woman you're hosting gets to explore a new country, make connections with a new family and participate in growth-oriented cultural exchange programs. Having an au pair in your family is fantastic — but sometimes, it can be a difficult adjustment.

When your au pair is first getting settled in your family — and throughout her stay — she can experience bouts of homesickness and have a hard time. Moving to another country can be overwhelming at times, but you want your au pair to have a positive experience in your host family — so it's important to be supportive. Here's how to help your homesick au pair when culture shock strikes.

Make Your Au Pair Part of the Family

Yes, your au pair is working for you and watching your kids, but her role is more important than that — she's supporting your family. As a host family, you've welcomed her into your home, so make sure she feels like she belongs there. You can integrate your au pair into the family and make her feel welcome by:

  • Eating family meals together
  • Spending family time together watching movies, playing games or getting to know each other better
  • Inviting her to family events, parties and gatherings
  • Taking her on outings like sporting games, recreational activities, out to dinner or for a day at the park

Include Her in Holiday Traditions

While homesickness can strike at any moment, the Holidays can often amplify the feelings of seclusion and loneliness for au pairs in America — especially because they know they won't be home to celebrate with their families. When you host an au pair, helping her deal with her homesickness can make a world of difference.

One of the greatest things about our world is the vast diversity of beliefs and traditions, including the variety of ways we celebrate the Holidays. These differences could leave your au pair feeling as if she does not belong with your family. When you host an au pair, including her in your family traditions and activities will help her feel less lonely, while encouraging cultural exchange. Some ways to include your au pair are:

  • Decorating the house
  • Baking and cooking holiday-themed recipes
  • Family outings
  • Tree shopping if celebrating Christmas
  • Visiting Santa with the children
  • Speaking about the way the holidays are celebrated in her country
  • Taking her to the religious service of her choice or her culture

Adopt Some of the Au Pair's Traditions

Cultural exchange should go both ways when you host an au pair. Including her in your family's traditions can go a long way towards alleviating homesickness — but embracing her traditions, as well, shows her you care about her and can reduce her feelings of isolation.

Ask your au pair to share stories about her home country, her family, her school, her childhood and her traditions. Culture shock may have her feeling especially homesick because there's nothing familiar around her. To make your home environment and family more comfortable and reduce those alien feelings, see if you can incorporate any of her traditions into your own home — like food, music, activities or decorations.

Learning your au pair's culture does more than make her feel at home — it also exposes your family to new ideas, enhances the cultural exchange and brings you all closer together.

Encourage Social Outings with Friends

Being on her own in a new country can make your au pair feel isolated and unhappy, even when you're kind and welcoming as a host family. Because she's separated from everything she knows and is familiar with, she'll miss all the places and people she's used to — her friends, her family, her classmates or coworkers, her school, her place of work and all her normal social outlets. While your company and your friendship is important to your au pair, it's also important for her to have her own social group and feel connected to her surroundings.

Your au pair will be involved in classes and have access to groups of other au pairs in her program. Make sure you give her adequate time off and support her participation in social groups. To help reduce homesickness, try encouraging your au pair to go out with her new friends in her free time. Spending time with friends is a great way to reduce homesickness. She may even have an au pair friend from the same country she is from and can share memories of traditions they have in common.

Get Involved with the Community

Engaging with the community is a wonderful way to help reduce the feelings of homesickness and one way to do this is through volunteering and joining community groups or settings. Local food banks, homeless and women's shelters, and even animal shelters are all great places to volunteer any time of the year. Becoming a volunteer further enriches the Au Pair's experience by exposing her to a wider range of traditions while knowing she has made a difference.

You can also encourage your au pair to get involved in other aspects of the community by introducing her to group opportunities. Take her to your local gym or library — she might want to become a member. Tell her about book clubs, exercise classes or other activities she can sign up for. Being a part of her community gives her a chance to meet new people, become part of a group and develop new hobbies to keep her busy.

Be There for Your Au Pair

Of all the things you can do to help reduce homesickness when you host an Au Pair, acknowledging her feelings and being there for her are the best things you can do. Make sure she knows you care, support her and are always there to help.

To learn more ways to help your homesick au pair, please contact EurAupair today.

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