At AIFS Au Pair we often hear from families with questions about how to handle saying good by and saying hello! As your au pair's departure date approaches, you will have a mixture of feelings, as will your children and of course, so will your au pair! It is often an emotional time when you say goodbye.

For host mums and dads it is quite natural to wonder how the next placement will go, how your children will manage the transition and how you can support them. There may be many different reactions to the au pair's departure. Depending on their age you may see (or experience) tears, hostility or withdrawal. Remember that although it is important to talk about feelings, it may be difficult for young children to express feelings of loss, disappointment or betrayal.

Therefore, children may act out their feelings instead (this can also be useful and appropriate). Any member of the household may feel angry, abandoned, sad or depressed. One common response to these feelings is to start to distance oneself. This helps some people to say good-bye, but may be confusing to other parties involved.

Here are some things to think about which might help everyone in your household prepare for your au pair's departure:

  • A lovely way to to prepare for your Au Pair's departure is to make a photo album to keep. Your children can choose photos from their time with your Au Pair and ad thier comments and pictures in the album. Remember to make two copies of every picutre and give a set to your Au Pair too!
  • Discuss a special farewell dinner, what is your Au Pair's favourite food. Have your children help with making the meal and remember to take lots of photos on that night
  • If you have very young children remember that they perceive time differently than adults. Do not talk about it too far in advance. 
  • As the departure date nears, please start to talk with your children about your Au Pair's departure. When possible, it is helpful to link the departure date to some other event (when school is over, soon after vacation, etc.).
  • Have your au pair talk with your children about her leaving in a positive way. 
  • If you have not already discussed world geography with your child, this would be a good time to do so. Point out on a globe where you live and where your au pair is going. Discuss the distance and the travel time involved. Be clear that the Au Pair is going home to her family. 
  • Discuss the possibility of staying in touch by WhatsApp, with letters, e-mail, or even pictures if your child does not write. Be sure you have the au pair's address, and make plans to write.
  • If you are having another au pair arrive, discuss the arrival plans with your child. It is natural that your current au pair may feel badly about being "replaced" in your children's hearts. Reassure your au pair and with older children speak with them about this.
  • Make sure there is an opportunity to say good-bye. Make it clear when it will be the last time your children will be seeing the Au Pair.
  • Your departing au pair might want to leave a welcoming note to the next Au Pair along with any useful tips or information that she knows would be helpful. This could help her to feel valued by you.

As concerned parents, we often might want to protect our children from life's bumps and bruises. However, learning to deal with loss is an important life lesson that can be understood by even young children. It is important to know that someone can care about you and still leave. With support from the family and the Au Pair, children can feel safe and secure while accepting the au pair's departure. Children are often more resilient than we give them credit for, and they are also often a reflection of their parents' feelings.