Bonding with Your Host Children
One of the most important things you can do as an au pair is to build a strong bond with your host children. Just as you are transitioning to a new country, city, state, and home, the family is also welcoming someone new into their home. Sometimes the transition is easy, but more often you will need to get to know the children and build their trust. It is important to understand that every child is different and that it takes time, patience, trust, mutual respect and open communication.
Trust is essential in building a bond with your host children. Being there for them emotionally and listening when they are upset will show them that you care. Children want to be heard and listening to them when they are happy, sad, scared, or feeling any other emotion will let them know they can trust you.
You should also be consistent. Keep your promises and follow through with what you tell the host children. Promise what is reasonable and within your ability to complete. For example, do not promise to go to the park that day if you know there is not enough time in the schedule to do so. Once they know they can trust you the children will be a lot more open towards you!
Make time for your host children. It is very important that every child feel you are interested in them and what they do. Put your phone away. Make one-on-one time with every child. If the children have a favorite hobby or sport, such as playing music, soccer, or making crafts, incorporate this in to your activities with the children. This shows the children that you are interested in what they are doing and want to be involved. If the children have sports, attend their games and cheer them on, play a favorite game with them, or take them to their favorite local spot!
Here are some one-on-one activity ideas:
- Taking a walk
- Arts and Crafts
- Having a picnic
- Going to the park
- Reading a book
Establishing Boundaries and Rules:
Setting rules and being consistent is very important for children. It helps them know what to expect and to behave accordingly. Although they may be initially resistant, children with schedules and consistent boundaries are happier and more successful.
Be sure to discuss with your host parents and see what rules are already in place. However, you can also set your own rules and expectations when you are caring for the children. Rules and schedules are important, but don’t have to be negative. Be sure to build in fun activities and rewards too! It’s best to post the rules or schedule somewhere in the house so the children can see and remember what to expect. They can even help you write the rules!
Below are some great schedule ideas:
Be sure you have developmentally appropriate expectations, for example; 1-year old’s get in to everything. 2-year-olds cannot share without protest. 3-year-olds will say, “no” often. 4-year-olds must know “why.” 5-year-olds can sometimes have an attitude or talk back and on it goes. Set boundaries that relate to the children’s behavior and encourage behavior you want to see. Know where your host child is developmentally and always check with the host parents if there are concerns.
Building a strong bond with your host children will not only make your Au Pair year better, but will ensure you have a long-lasting relationship for years to come!