mother, woman, people

How to build a strong relationship with your host kids

Building a bond or relationship with the host kid(s) is something that most au pairs worry about before arriving and during their au pair time. But, the even bigger challenge is how to be their friend while maintaining an authoritative role. This is something that even some parents have a hard time balancing, but I’m going to give you some tips and tricks on how to manage both.

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My host kid doesn’t want to spend time with me...

There are many challenges that an au pair can run into when starting out. Maybe the host kid is a baby and he or she cries every single time the mom or dad leaves them with you. Maybe they are older and they have a bad attitude and just don’t want anything to do with you. Maybe they are toddlers and they associate time with you as time away from mom and dad.
No matter what the case is, as an au pair, it is up to you to find a way to connect somehow. Sometimes it is easier than others, but you can do it!

Everyone is unique...

Remember that every child is different so the way to the heart of one, will likely be different than his or her sibling(s). One tried and tested method to bonding with any kid is to find common ground. This is something you can start to do even before you arrive. 

Ask the parents what the kids are into – favourite tv shows, animals, puzzles, sports, etc. With this information, you can start learning a few things about whatever the kids are passionate about, and this way, if you are having trouble bonding with them, you can ask them about their favourite things and you will be able to “participate”. For example, if the parents tell you that their kids like Paw Patrol, you could watch an episode or two before going so that if you need a way to bond with them, you could ask who their favourite character is, and you could tell them about yours and something that character did from the episode you watched. This will likely impress them and maybe as a follow-up activity, you could suggest watching an episode together.

Show genuine interest...

Having one conversation with your host kid about their favourite tv show isn’t going to win them over. Plus, kids are really smart, so you have to show a real interest in the things they like. Even if you aren’t really interested in the same things, try to show them that you are making an effort. If your host kid likes reading anime comics and you have absolutely no interest or no clue, you could ask what they are currently reading and ask them to show you how to read them. Ask them about their favourite character and maybe ask them what character they think you might like. Showing an interest in what the kids like will score you major points with your host parents too!

Spend time with them outside your “working hours”

Sometimes children “reject” the au pair because they associate their time with the au pair as time when mom and dad are not with them. It is often the case that what kids want more than anything in the world is more attention from or time with mom and dad. If this seems to be the case, mention it to the host parents and ask if you can be involved in some activities with the whole family so the kids don’t just associate you with being separated from their parents. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend all of your free time with the host family, but if you can make the effort to participate in some family activities like a trip to the park, a games night or even just watching a movie or show together, the kids will see that time with you doesn’t ALWAYS mean time away from their parents.

Being an authority figure...

As much as we want to have a great bond with our host kids, it’s also important that they see us as someone that they have to listen to and respect. This can be especially hard at first because you are still learning the house rules and what is allowed and not allowed. One thing is for sure and that is that you MUST BE CONSISTENT. If you tell them “no” and then in the end let them do whatever you said no to, they are going to think you are easy to control and they are going to walk all over you.
If you tell them “no” and they say, “but mommy let’s me do it like that”, you can tell them that today they do it your way and that you’ll ask mommy later how they are supposed to do it. It’s quite possible that they will try to test you and you have to be prepared and ready for it. It is really, really important that you are firm and consistent straight away, because it is going to make your life more difficult if you start off letting them get away with everything and then later try to start gaining their respect.
Remember, being an authority figure doesn’t just mean shouting and commanding like an army sergeant. Set boundaries and make sure they know what the consequences will be if they don’t follow the rules. You can ask the parents if they already have some set rules and consequences for certain things, and if not, set your own. Also make sure to celebrate the things the kids do right. This is HUGE! Nobody wants to always be hearing the things they do wrong. Children love attention, so if you pay them more attention for the things that they do wrong, than for the things they do well, they might continue to do the bad things because then they know they will have your attention. You don’t have to physically give them a prize for the things they do well, but at least give them some verbal recognition and praise and show them that you notice the things they do right. If you are having a particular problem with something that the host kid always does badly, but one day they do what they should, you could reward them with an extra story at bedtime, let them choose the free time activity or something that you know they will like. Just make sure that you really celebrate those moments because they will remember how happy you were and they will want to continue.

Is it bad that I have a favourite?

If you are in a host family with more than one child, it is probably true that you get along with one child more than the other(s). However, you must be very careful not to show favouritism. You should ALWAYS try to treat all the kids equally no matter what. If you feel like you have really bonded with one of the kids, ask the parents if you can have some time to do a one-on-one activity with the other(s) to help strengthen your relationship. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated, it’s just to show them that you are interested in them and want to spend time with them.

Remember that you are there to enjoy yourself and have fun with the kids. Don’t stress about what your host kids will think of you, just be yourself and try to involve yourself in things that they enjoy or show them things that you like. Maybe you can teach each other something new!

What do you think?

As always, I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts about this topic. Feel free to contact me here or message me on Instagram or in the comments section below.

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