Life as an au pair is an incredibly rewarding experience and the InterExchange Au Pair USA team is here to help you make the most of it. However, being in a new country and adjusting to life in a new household can be challenging at times. If something is troubling you that you think can be successfully addressed by talking directly to your host parents, it is very important that you make the effort to speak with your host family. Schedule a time to sit down and talk after the children are in bed or out of the home. Write down your thoughts beforehand and make a list of topics you want to discuss. Below are some suggestions on how to discuss sensitive topics with your host family.
- Listen: Do not interrupt, but make sure you understand what they are saying. Ask for clarification if there are words or expressions that you do not know. Repeat things back in your own words so they know you've heard them and understood the conversation so far. Use appropriate body language to convey that you are engaged in the discussion.
- Use "I" Statements: Communicate how the current problem or situation is making you feel. Use statements such as "When I'm… it makes me feel…" or "I think that…" to approach the problem openly. Using "You" statements, such as "I want you to…" or "You need to," makes the other person or people defensive.
- Talk About the Behavior, Not the Person: Talk about specific examples of what is causing you to have a hard time. Focus on the event itself and not the overall character of the person who is doing it. For example, "When the dishwasher is always left full for me to empty, it makes me feel unappreciated." Explain about how the behavior is making you feel.
- Work on a Solution: Talk about what you would like to see change. Use phrases such as "What I'd like to see happen is…" or "It would be nice if… ." Work on coming up with solutions together. Ask your host family for suggestions about what has worked successfully in the past. If this is a new problem, work together to research solutions that could help.
- Create a Timeline for Change: Write down small steps that can be taken and map out when they should be completed. Make a schedule to check in with each other. If you reach the end of the timeline and you have not seen any progress, then it is time to contact your Local Coordinator. Tell your Local Coordinator about what you and your host family had discussed.
InterExchange never wants you to stay unhappy in any situation. However, you need to be able to discuss your thoughts openly, honestly and directly with your host family. If things do not improve, it is necessary that you contact your Local Coordinator, Regional Supervisor or the InterExchange office. We will also be reaching out to you directly throughout your program and asking for your feedback. Always feel free to come to us with any questions, problems or concerns.
Kate Ferrin spent over ten years globetrotting doing a variety of things - studying in Hungary, housekeeping in Spain, marketing in Holland, teaching in Thailand, and more. After working for an intercultural youth exchange program in Chile, she came to New York and InterExchange in 2010 and is currently the Au Pair USA Participant Services Manager.