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"Dear Family" Letter Do's and Don't's.
Before you get down to composing your "Dear Family" letter, here are some tips for you.

a.) Au Pairs' Motives

I wish to start by pointing out an important fact: prospective au pairs may have both explicit and implicit motives for seeking to become au pairs. What I want to show you here is that most prospective au pair applicants tend to put forth the au pairing predefined goals as being totally representative of their own motives for venturing into au pairing. As a result, most of them tend to leave out their more personal motives. The result is that, as potential host families go through such au pairs' profiles, they get the feeling that all prospective au pair applicants are singing the same chorus: " Choose me! Choose me! I love kids, and am eager to learn your language and culture!".

The explicit motives: Au pairing experience provides a basis for cultural exchange. For three to eighteen months or more, you live in a different country, sharing the everyday lives of a host family whose cultural references are different from yours. The experience is also meant to provide you with an opportunity to learn a foreign language or to enable you improve a foreign language you have already acquired. It follows therefore that the four main goals of au pairing, as put forth by au pair agencies and virtual au pair-host family databases, tend to focus on cultural exposure, foreign language acquisition, child care experience and the opportunity to travel and develop new friendships. These are supposed to be any prospective au pair's explicit motives for seeking to become an au pair.

A prospective au pair's application is therefore ideally expected to be motivated by her or his desire to gain exposure to a different culture and way of life and to learn a foreign language. It goes without saying, (but I'll say it anyway ;-) Ideally (again), the au pair to be, is also expected to "love" children. I'll come back to this last point a little bit later on.

The implicit motives: Cultural exposure in exchange for child care are the predefined currencies in any au pair-host family arrangement. Consequently, few prospective au pairs dare admit to their potential host families the implicit motives that may be influencing their decisions to become au pairs. These reasons and motives may, for example include: their educational and professional aspirations, i.e their intention to pursue higher education in the destination country or elsewhere. The end result is that, such prospective au pairs send across the message that they aspire only one thing: to become au pairs; to look after someone else's children, cook their meals, do their housework...serve them. Few dare to put forth their professional competence and aspirations.
The fact of the matter is, in as much as majority of host parents, would like to have someone who is dedicated to their children, a large majority-if not all, would also like to have an au pair who: is cheerfull, self driven, and has a good dose of self esteem (feels good about her/ him-self)and has a fair share of ambition. As an au pair, you will definitely feel better about yourself if your host family is aware of and values your competence in other areas of life, and acknowledges your future aspirations. In other words,you are not just the au pair! If you feel good about yourself you are most likely to have a positive influence on the children and the family in general.

The point I am putting across here is: You are young or perhaps not so young (nowadays, au pair ages vary tremendously from country to country), and you are more than allowed to have a personal or professional background and aspirations that go beyond childcare. You need not present yourself as someone who is ready to slave for your host family; it beats the spirit behind au pairing!

Remember that prospective au pair host families too have their explicit and their implicit motives for choosing to engage the services of au pairs. The main reason why host parents opt for au pair arrangements is because it offers the peace of mind that comes with knowing that a live-in childcare provider is available, and at a relatively reasonable cost. Some secondary reasons for having an au pair may include: the au pair being a source of company for an only child; a host parent's desire to have some adult company in the house (in the case of single parents, or couples working in different towns ) and the possibility of developing the children's bilingual skills.

b.) Interests are I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T-S... b.) Interests are I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T-S...

I love the following two quotations that come from two au pair applicants' profiles. "My Interests: I have a light skin and I am a joyous, happy young lady who loves to serve people. I am honest, hard working, and flexible. " "My Interests: I am a happy healthy 24 year old blonde with blue eyes." Are you as shocked as I was, or probably find this hilarious as I did ? Understandable since like you, the last time I looked up the meaning of the word "interest" in the dictionary, it did not include physical attributes such as skin colour, hair colour or eye colour.

Aside from the fact that your physical attributes are of no interest in an au pair application, the former reflects underlying 'racial' stereotypes, and the latter an amount of self centeredness, that would normally not go down well with most people. Interests include your hobbies, leisure time activities, sports and the like.

c.) P-L-E-A-S-E...; Do Not Beg! c.) P-L-E-A-S-E...; Do Not Beg!

Hey, perhaps you really want to quit your dead end job or the idea of giving your ruthless boss a week's notice before you fly off to your new au pair life is simply making you drool with delightful impatience. You may be sick and tired of being jobless or (as was my case) you may be completing your studies and the constant thoughts of unemployment ahead is weighing you down. OK, perhaps you are a wee bit desperate, but p-l-e-a-s-e! do not let your au pair application come across as begging! You need to convince your prospective host family that you are the right person. The quality of your "Dear family letter and other subsequent e-mails between you and the potential host family should vouch for you.

So! Forget those shallow promises that everyone else is making. Do not beg! Do not grovel! Instead, engage yourself in some serious reflection and produce a well thought out letter. And of course, once a rapport has been established between you and a host family, strive to maintain some regularity in your communication.

d.) Too Much is Too Much!

"Dear family, I am simple person I know how to handle children and love them. Playing with children is my hobby" "Dear family, I would like to be an au pair because I want to learn everything about the world and all about the different cultures. I love children, and know that this is the most perfect way to do both."

My dear reader, need I say more? ;-) :-) OK, just in case you do not get it, focus on the ideas expressed in: "Playing with children is my hobby", and "because I want to learn everything about the world and all about the different cultures". These are first class overstatements! While we are at it, it would not be a bad idea to go easy on the part about "loving" children. I personally find that in this context, "love" is often used abusively. 'Liking children very much' , 'enjoying being in the company of children', 'being comfortable with children', are all good places to start. Instead of repeating and overstating your "love" for children, it would make more sense to show it; to tell what it is you like about them in general and what you do when in the company of children.

e.) To Preach or Not to Preach.... e.) To Preach or Not to Preach....

You may be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist,... whatever. Fact: Religion is not only cultural but also a very personal choice. This simply means that while you may be into practicing your religion, your potential host family may have chosen a different orientation, like living religion-free lives. It is important to be conscious of this fact when preparing your application, and to be ready to respect their choice of religion or no religion. Tip: Whatever you do, refrain from writing things like: "Dear Family, I love looking after children, keeping them active and assisting them in all their needs as well as helping them grow to be God fearing Christians..." or "I was brought up as a God fearing child and I look forward to transmitting these values to your children". Numerous prospective au pairs' profiles I came across made such statements, which in my humble opinion are inappropriate for the following reason. As an au pair applicant, you do not know who will read your profile. However, you can be sure that the potential host families will range from practising to non practising Christians, Muslims...ThisorThat to Atheists. You may in reality be indifferent to the religious orientation of your prospective host family, but such statements contrary to your intentions may be understood differently i.e you have a preference for families with this or that religious background. Why seal off your chances of finding a host family with such religion-related statements?

Step 8: Selecting Your Photos

An Example of a "Dear Family" Letter

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