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A strong support system is essential for all people. Most au pairs find support particularly helpful as they navigate a year away from their friends and family. In my experience, au pairs who form a strong connection to their community in some way are the ones who have the most successful year. While it is of course the heart of the program that your au pair would become a part of your family and form that strong bond that makes her year special, there are lots of other ways to help your au pair create a sense of family in the US.
*Find an outlet! Whatever it is that your auparecare loves to do at home – run, paint, sing, etc – help them find a way to continue doing it. Add them to your gym membership, encourage them to sign up for free classes at the community center. Facilitate her involvement in these things in any way you can. Not only will she enjoy it, but she most likely meet new friends who have similar interests. One of my au pairs joined a running club. The other members became her closest friends during her year, and invited her to celebrate various holidays and events with them.
*Invite her friends in! Getting to know your au pair’s friends has several great benefits. One, knowing other au pair friends gives your family the opportunity to experience yet another culture. Second, when a host family meets an au pair’s friends, it may ease their mind about allowing the au pair to have visitors when they are not home. Finally, having an ‘open door’ policy (once you’ve met the other person, of course) sends the au pair the message that this is her home, and she is a part of the family.
*Encourage her to meet people! There are several great ways for your au pair to make friends during her year. Getting to know others in her own cluster is of course a great way to forge new friendships. Remind your au pair how hard it was for her when she first arrived and encourage her to reach out to new au pairs in the cluster. Au pairs can also take advantage of the social benefit the educational component can give. Making friends with other young people through courses can be a wonderful outlet for an au pair.
*Attend religious services! For many, spiritual life is very important and can itself be a wonderful comfort to au pairs throughout their year. Religious communities are full of people who want to reach out and help a person going through a challenge. Whenever possible, allow your au pair to attend services and become a part of her local religious family.
As the holiday season approaches, there has never been a better time to help your au pair create her own sense of family here in the US. These tips will get you started!