Now that you’ve finally matched with your au pair, you have probably started to wonder, “Ok…so what do I need to do now?”
The agency you are working with should be taking care of everything on the au pair’s end to get her to the United States, including helping her apply for her visa and making travel arrangements from her home country to the US.
However, there are several things you should also take care of to make your au pair’s arrival smooth and welcoming.
Follow these 13 steps to make sure you have a great start to your year with your au pair!
1. Stay in Communication
Keeping regular communication with your au pair-to-be is probably the most important thing you can do to make sure she feels welcome in your home.
Try to check in with her once a week to both see how she is doing and help her become more familiarized with your family. This can be very simple, such as sending a picture of your kids doing an activity they love, or telling her a story about something new they learned. Let her know how excited you and your children are for her arrival!
Be sure to ask each time how she is doing and if she is encountering any difficulties. The visa application process can be stressful; many au pairs are very nervous about it. Don’t forget to send your congratulations when her visa is issued!
If you have the ability, try to Skype intermittently so your kids can have some interaction with her before her arrival. If you have a child on the way, it would be great for you to include her in exciting moments like the gender reveal.
2. Personalize her Room
Come up with a few ways to personalize her room-to-be so that your au pair feels welcome the moment she arrives to your home.
One thing we like to do is print off a few pictures of her with friends and family from her Facebook profile, and place them in frames in the room. We also placed a Brazilian flag on the wall for our 2 au pairs from Brazil.
During your regular check-ins with her, ask some questions that can further help you personalize her room, such as her favorite colors, artists, or activities. Decorate her walls with pictures or art that match her tastes. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just show that you are interested in her and want to make her feel at home.
3. Purchase New Sheets and Towels
Providing your au pair with brand-new sheets and towels is a good gesture if you have the budget for it.
I like to provide our au pair with her own towels and washcloths as well as 2 different sets of brand-new sheets (one that is lighter-weight for summer and one flannel set for winter).
Have everything washed and ready in her room for her when she arrives.
4. Prepare an Arrival Gift Basket
Having a basket with a few welcome gifts and items she can use right away is another simple thing you can do to start your relationship off on the right foot.
The basket doesn’t have to be extravagant. Consider including items from the following categories:
- Snacks: Your au pair is probably going to be exhausted from the trip here and starting off slightly overwhelmed. She may not feel super comfortable with you right away and might not like wandering around your kitchen looking for something to eat the first few days. Consider including some snack items and bottled water that she can go to when she needs. Bonus idea: Introduce her to local specialties or national favorites with a post-it note (like Hershey’s chocolate or Oreos)
- Basic Self-Care Items: Hit up the travel section for items she’ll need to make it through her first few days, such as toothbrush & toothpaste, floss, shampoo & conditioner, Tylenol or ibuprofen, body wash & a loofah.
- Personalized Items: It’s nice to include a few personalized fun gifts for her to enjoy as well. You could find a water bottle with her favorite character on it, or a notebook/stationary set in her favorite colors. The more questions you ask to get to know her in the weeks leading up to her arrival, the easier this part will be!
Another option is for extended family members that will have interactions with her to consider adding small gifts as well to help her feel welcomed by all.
5. Call your Auto Insurance Agent
If your au pair will be driving, call your auto insurance agent to find out what you will need to do to add her to your policy.
Some policies will require that your au pair obtain a state driver’s license within so many days of arrival. If that is the case, make sure you communicate that to your au pair. Help her find the requirements for obtaining her state license and any information she may need to study to pass written tests.
6. Decide on a Phone Plan
The first thing you will need to do is find out if your au pair will be bringing her own phone with her to use while she is with you.
If she brings her own phone and you plan on paying for her service, check with your phone carrier ahead of time as to what you will need to do. You are not required to pay for your au pair’s phone service. However, I recommend adding her to your family plan so you can have peace of mind that you will be able to keep in contact with her when you are away from home and she is taking care of your children.
If she is not planning on bringing/using her own phone, I recommend you purchase a basic smartphone and add it to your family plan to be ready for her to use when she gets here. Get it set up and program in your family contacts ahead of time for her.
7. Make Travel Arrangements to Your Home
The agency you are working with should help arrange your au pair’s travel from home to her training location in the United States, but may not arrange the travel from training to your home.
Check with your agency to find out exactly where your au pair will be arriving/training, and when you will need to make travel plans for her to get to your home.
8. Arrange Delivery of Phone and Prepaid Card
If you are providing the phone for your au pair, I recommend arranging for it to be delivered to her the day she arrives to her training in the United States. Your au pair agency should be able to provide you with the details on how to get packages to her during her training period.
I also recommend sending a prepaid visa card to her so she has money if she needs it on her trip from training to your home. If flying, she may need to pay for luggage fees or something to eat at the airport.
9. Decide on House Rules
If you haven’t already, now is the time to figure out what your house rules will be. Make sure everyone in your household is on the same page regarding the following items:
- Curfew – Will your au pair be required to be home by a certain time if she is taking care of the children on the next day? If she is off work and will not be home at night, how do you want her to check in with you?
- Car Usage – What are the ground rules for utilization of the car? Is she expected to pay for her own gas? Can she use the car overnight? If she wants to travel in her off-time, how far from home will you allow her to take the car?
- Family Chores – What types of chores is your au pair responsible for? (Remember – as an au pair, her work duties must be childcare related – they cannot be for her to cook for the whole family every night, do your laundry, etc. However, as she is considered a member of the family, you can reasonably ask her to participate in chores that the whole family does.) Think about expectations for keeping her room and bathroom clean, washing her dishes when she cooks, etc.
- Visitors in your Home – Will you allow visitors to your home while she is on child care duty? If so, do you want to meet them beforehand? Will you allow overnight visitors?
You may have discussed these things already during your interview and matching process, but if you haven’t, be sure to figure out the rules you want her to follow while she is with you. It’s easier to have something set from the beginning rather than have to figure it out when the question comes up later.
10. Create a List of Children’s Activities
Since your au pair will be brand new to the area, come up with a “cheatsheet” of activities for the kids and places she can take them. Good options to include would be the local library or any nearby parks.
If you have a children’s museum or a zoo in your area, look into getting a membership that she can use to take the kids. Some establishments have nanny cards included with their memberships so the whole family can use it as well!
11. Learn More About Your Au Pair’s Culture
Do a little research into her culture to help you anticipate what needs and concerns she might have. You could do some internet research, or reach out to your au pair agency to see if they can put you in contact with other host families that have had au pairs from the same country. You’ll be surprised what you can learn this way!
Example 1: We have had 2 au pairs from Brazil. Rice and beans are staples in the Brazilian diet, so we purchased a rice cooker and a pressure cooker for our au pairs to use.
It can be difficult to adjust to a typical American diet, so providing ways for your au pair to eat food she is used to can go a long way to helping her feel comfortable. Look for restaurants near you that serve her home dishes.
Example 2: The night our first au pair flew into town, she was very nervous traveling from the airport to our home. She explained that in her home city, it is very dangerous to be out after dark. She was shocked that a woman could safely be out driving alone in the evening.
Your au pair may also be concerned about her safety. Let her know what kind of precautions she should follow to stay safe while she is here in the United States. Take some time to think about the simple things you do on a daily basis (such as locking your doors at night, or not leaving your purse or other valuables in your car). Make sure to go over these safeguards with her prior to or immediately after her arrival.
12. Make Dedicated Spaces for Your Au Pair
A good way to help your au pair feel like part of the family instead of just a visitor is to create some dedicated space for her in common areas of the house.
Take some time to clear out space for her in the following places where able:
- Refrigerator & Freezer
- Bathroom (if shared)
- Coat rack/closet
This way she doesn’t feel like she is intruding or that she has to keep everything in her room and shuttle it back and forth when she needs it.
13. Create a Support Plan
Come up with some ideas for how you can support your au pair from the very beginning. Early on, you are her only support system nearby if something goes wrong, such as breaking up with a boyfriend back home or getting overwhelmed with home sickness.
Even something small like grabbing her a cupcake on the way home from work can help to remind her that, although she’s so far from home and family, she has people nearby who support and care about her.
Use your regular check-ins prior to her arrival to ask her questions about ways you can help when she is having a rough time. Try to get several ideas from her as to what types of things bring her comfort when she is stressed.
Preparation is Key to a Successful Year with Your Au Pair
Thinking and planning ahead are crucial to having a great year with your au pair. The more you leave till the last minute, the more you risk unnecessary stress for your au pair and yourself when faced with a new situation.
Remember that you should strive to build a good relationship with the person that is going to be responsible for your children when you are away. You definitely want your au pair to feel welcome and able to come to you with any concerns.
Now it’s time for you to create a checklist for yourself of must-do items prior to your au pair’s arrival. And don’t forget to send her a quick message each week to keep her in the loop!
What questions have you run across while you are awaiting your au pair’s arrival? Let me know in the comments!
Still working on choosing your au pair? Be sure to check out these interview questions to help find a great au pair match!