Saying Goodbye: Navigating an Au Pair Departure

The au pair program allows au pairs to stay in the United States for up to two years on the J-1 Visa. For the majority of families, this means a “goodbye” is inevitable at the au pair program end, after their au pair has completed the cultural exchange experience.

While farewells can be tricky, it’s important to remember they can be more of “see you laters,” since many au pairs and host families remain in contact once their program experience has come to an end. In fact, some even return for important family milestones like weddings and bar mitzvahs.

In the meantime, here are some ways to help you and your family navigate your au pair departure:

Talk about your au pair’s departure

Communication is the key to any successful au pair and host family relationship, and it doesn’t stop when your au pair is getting ready to leave. Discuss with your children what changes they can expect to face at home. Talk with your au pair about how you’ll remain in contact once they leave. Encourage an open dialogue between your au pair and family to ensure there are no surprises when departure day arrives.

Plan something special with your au pair

After having lived together for some time, you likely know your au pair very well. Plan a special dinner with their favorite foods. Take them to their favorite ice cream shop one last time. Go on a family and au pair hike in the neighborhood park. Don’t forget to take photos of your special time together!

Present a sentimental goodbye gift for your au pair

Your au pair has just experienced a year (or more) of personal and professional growth, in part due to your family. No doubt your family and au pair have bonded on various levels, having spent this life-changing time together. Consider creating a scrapbook or putting together a photo album filled with memories your au pair can look at for years to come. Other ideas could include a personalized holiday ornament, engraved necklace or bracelet, or a framed photograph of your family and au pair together.

Don’t take for granted the simple things your au pair does

You may not even notice it anymore, but it sure does make you happy when your au pair empties the dishwasher before you return from work or cuts your child’s sandwich in four pieces instead of two because they know it’s the way they prefer to eat it. Be sure to point out how much you appreciate these simple gestures and how much you’ll miss them when your au pair leaves. Appreciation is always welcome, even at the au pair program end.

Decide if your next au pair will overlap with your current au pair

For some families who have an extra bedroom, it’s helpful for their new au pair to arrive before their current au pair leaves. Your current au pair can help train and acclimate your new au pair to your home. For others, they prefer a few days in between to get organized and ready for the change. Consider the best option for your family and plan for your au pair transition accordingly. Remember to communicate effectively with both your current au pair and future au pair your expectations so everyone is on the same page.

What tips would you add when it comes to navigating the end of your au pair’s stay? Let us know.

Marisa Lonic

Marisa is a lover of all things cultural exchange. She and her family have hosted au pairs from Brazil, Germany, Colombia, Spain, and Ecuador. As a mom of four and the founder of Mama Work It, she helps working moms juggle mom life, work life, spouse life, fill in the blank life through her books, courses and coaching programs.