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Published on July 20th, 2018 | by Jones

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Everything you need to be an au pair in your gap year

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take a gap year after high school. It only becomes a problem when you choose to do nothing in that year. What many teens are choosing to do, which is a great opportunity for anyone looking for a soul-searching opportunity, is working as an au pair.

You could sign up with an au pairing agency that will allocate you to a specific family within South Africa or one that will send you abroad. It’s no surprise that most 18-year-olds choose to au pair overseas. It’s an opportunity to travel to a different country, learn a new language, have travel opportunities from that country with the family you’re looking after and a chance for you to be independent and away from your parents.

When you sign with an agency, they’ll also be able to tell you the specific needs and details of the family you will be working for. So, now that you know what you’d like to do in your gap year, here’s everything you’re going to need to become an au pair.

What is an au pair?

Before we continue, you need to understand what an au pair is and the types of duties you will be required to carry out.

An au pair is someone who takes on the duties of caring for a family’s children, usually as a live-in au pair. They do the duties of taking the kids to school and picking them up afterwards, getting them ready in the mornings and evenings, feeding them, doing homework, transporting them to their extramural activities and keeping them entertained in between. Au pairs have the opportunity to work with children of all ages, therefore providing a range of different responsibilities to undertake.

Now, with that in mind, what do you need to be a good fit for the job?

You need to know how to work with children

Most agencies might require you to do some sort of training programme before they enlist you as a “certified” au pair for families to choose from. But you should know how to work with children anyway.

Children require plenty of patience and, depending on their age, an infinite amount of attention. When first meeting younger children you’ll be looking after, you need to establish a friendly relationship. One where they can get used to the idea of spending time with you on a daily basis without crying for their parents every five minutes. When it comes to older kids, they aren’t as easily impressed by shiny things that can keep them distracted for hours.

But the easiest way to read a child is when you meet them. You will know how firm to speak to them based on how they speak and behave with you. Regardless, it’s important that they know that you are in charge and ready to bring the thunder when it’s called for. Other than that, working with children usually means you’ll be having a lot of fun and getting to witness some adorable and hilarious moments.

You need a car

As an au pair, you are required to transport the children around to wherever they need to be. A family will not choose to hire you if you don’t have a car or if your car is considered unsafe. If you are in either situation, it’s time to start looking at cars for sale. And it doesn’t have to be brand new or fancy, there are plenty of certified pre-owned cars for sale that you can choose from.

If you’re au pairing in a foreign country, you’re going to need to make sure you organised your international driver’s licence and updated yourself with the relevant rules of the road. And you will be getting paid for au pairing so you might as well find second-hand cars for sale on that side to call your own and pay it off as you earn.

Most au pairing jobs work on schedules where you’ll have more than enough free time to explore the new country you’re in, so a car will be a worthwhile investment.


You need tutoring skills

And, of course, you’ll need to know how to tutor the kids. You’ll be on homework duty and, possibly, working with children in both primary school and high school at the same time.

Tutoring skills include creating learning styles that are suited to the child, the ability to encourage and motivate and, above all, have patience. You need to meet the child where they’re at and work with them from there. You need to make sure they truly understand the work they’re doing because their parents will turn to you when the report card comes around.

There is so much one can learn from being an au pair and the experience, as a whole, is unforgettable. You will learn responsibility, resourcefulness, leadership, how to be organised, accountability, independence, respect, the value of money and parenting skills. If you don’t know what to do in your gap year, you should consider becoming an au pair.

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