Author Archives: Christine Connally

Do You Need Sports Insurance?

Trying out winter sports like ice skating, skiing and snow boarding can be very exciting, especially if this is your first time experiencing winter weather. However, you should also know the risks and be prepared.

Is it risky to do winter sports without the sports insurance?

Yes. If you have to pay your own hospital bills for a broken bone, you might be shocked at how much that would cost. I checked this website for some cost estimates.

Here are a couple examples:

  • Without medical coverage, to treat a broken arm or leg (that does not require surgery) it could cost up to $2,500.
  • Without medical coverage, to treat a broken arm or leg (requiring surgery) it could cost $16,000 or more.

It is important that you understand how the medical coverage works for sports related injuries. There is a list of “high-risk sports/activities” that are not covered with the basic or upgrade medical insurance plans. Those activities are only covered with the Sports Insurance Package.

The Sports Insurance was available pre-departure and may also be purchased at any time during your year. It takes effect within 48 hours of your enrollment and it is good for 12 months. The cost will be the same ($105) whether you have a month left or your whole year ahead of you. I recommend you pay for it early on, if you didn’t already purchase it. You never know when an opportunity might present itself and you don’t want to miss out on an adventure. You also don’t want to take a risk on getting injured and being responsible for the bill on your own.

Below is a partial list of sports that are only covered with the sports insurance package:
Football, Rugby, Scuba diving, Ski-doo,  Wakeboarding, Skydiving, Parachuting, Rock climbing, Zip line, Skate boarding, Rollerblading, Roller skating,  Ice Skating, SkiingSnowboardingSnowmobiles & Snowshoeing.  View the full list on your insurance brochure.

Note: Injuries sustained while partaking in these sports are ONLY covered with purchase of the Sports Insurance.

How to register for the Sports Insurance
Use the 2022 Sports Insurance Enrollment Form to register. Contact your counselor, if you are unsure which insurance package you have and/or have questions about sports insurance.

If you think you will be doing any of these sports, you should get it now.

Recipes, Crafts & Activities for Winter Fun

If you are looking for fun things to do with your host kids to celebrate the winter season, check out Au Pair in America on Pinterest. You’ll find recipes, crafts, games and winter traditions from a variety of countries to share with your host children.

If you have some fun winter traditions from your home country, share those with your host family. This beautiful season is a great time for culture sharing.

Winter Fun &  Winter Holidays

 

Top 10 Winter Driving Tips

Cold weather can bring a new set of driving challenges, especially if you are not from a climate where you have experience with these conditions. Driving in the snow and ice can be a challenge even for experienced drivers. If you don’t have to go out in bad weather, stay home. If you do have to go out, here are some tips. More information can be found on the AAA website.

Top 10 Winter Driving Tips

  1. Bulky coats and snowsuits should not be worn underneath the harness (straps) of a car seat. Check out information here and discuss with your host parents.
  2. Keep cold-weather supplies in your car, such as a blanket, a flashlight, window ice scraper, snacks and water.
  3. Make certain your tires are properly inflated and have plenty of tread.
  4. Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.
  5. Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  6. Avoid sudden moves, accelerate and decelerate slowly.
  7. Don’t stop going up a hill.
  8. Increase the following distance between you and the car ahead of you. 
  9. Know your brakes. Test our how they perform on slippery surfaces in a safe place where there are not other cars parked close to you.
  10. Leave early to give yourself extra time and drive slowly.

Even better… If you don’t have to go out driving in snow and ice, stay home.

This short video has some great information.

Photo: Steve Pisano (Flickr)

Avoiding Homesickness in the Holiday Season

Homesickness can be a problem during the holidays, even if it hasn’t been at any other time of the year. Au pairs often miss their friends and family, familiar places and their own traditions and customs. The holiday activities in the United States seem, and may actually be, different just at a time when an au pair would welcome something familiar.

It is common for au pairs’ emotions to be close to the surface during the holidays. Her highs are higher, her lows are lower. The enormity of what she has done–actually living in another country (which is an amazing thing when you think about it!)–hits her and throws her into a self-protective mode.

Host parents can help her through this unfamiliar territory by talking to her about what your specific family activities will be (gifts, meals, visitors, religious services, in-home traditions, or none of these, as the case may be.) In the spirit of cultural exchange, ask her if she has any favorite holiday traditions or foods that you might be able to incorporate into your family’s celebration of the season. Let her know what you will be doing, when you will be doing it, and what she can expect. Talk to her about what has to be accomplished and get her involved and interested. Don’t expect her to just “know” what needs to be done. Give her some clear, agreed upon assignments. Make her feel a part of things. And, let her know her contribution is needed and appreciated.

Photo: Sheila Sund (Flickr)

Safety Tips for Holiday Shopping

It is easy to get distracted at this time of year and when you are distracted you are at a greater risk for holiday crime.  Here are some tips that are always a good idea, but especially important to remember at this time of year.

holiday shopping

  • Always pay attention to your surroundings.  Avoid distractions like using your cell phone or listening to music when you are coming and going from stores.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.  Take just the amount you need or use debit or credit cards.
  • Keep your money in a front pocket.  Pay close attention to your wallet when you are in crowded places like buses, metro, and elevators.
  • Be careful not to lay your purse or bags down on the floor or out of your sight at the mall.
  • Save your most expensive purchases for the end of your shopping when you will be going straight to the car.
  • Whenever possible, shop during daylight hours and if you must shop after dark, go with a friend.
  • If you are not driving yourself to go shopping, use the Metro Trip Planner before going out, to minimize time waiting at the bus stop or metro station.  Never accept a ride from a stranger.
  • Be aware of strangers approaching you for any reason. Criminals will use different methods to distract you and steal your belongings.
  • Look around the parking area when you are leaving.
  • Do not approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in the area.  You can go back into the store and ask security to walk out with you or wait for a family or other group of people to walk out at the same time as you.
  • Trust your instincts, if something seems suspicious or unsafe, you are probably right.  Following the saying, “Better Safe Than Sorry.”

Surviving and Thriving in the Holiday Season

The fall/winter holiday season is most often a time of joy and excitement. However, it can also be a time of stress and disappointment for both host families and au pairs. The pandemic will add its own complexities to the holiday season.

Here are some ideas and insights that will hopefully help you avoid stress and disappointment and share more of the joy and excitement.

Holiday Work Schedules

Miscommunication over the schedule is the #1 issue for host families and au pairs over the holidays. As a reminder to assist with scheduling, program guidelines state an au pair can work up to 45 hours per week and no more than 10 hours per day. Hours cannot be carried from week to week. Please take the time to discuss your schedules and expectations.

The au pair program regulations do not have requirements for au pairs to be given holidays off. However, in the spirit of the program and since most parents will be at home spending time with their children, the majority of host families give au pairs some or all of the winter holidays off Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Please discuss this so that everyone is clear about the schedule when making holiday plans.

Religion

For au pairs with religious beliefs different from your own, you may choose to encourage her to share the associated traditions with your family. If you are not comfortable with this aspect of cultural exchange, your au pair may need your help as well as appropriate time off to participate in her own holiday traditions. Enabling her to do this is very important. Her holiday or her time to celebrate the holiday may not be the same as yours; try to take this into consideration if you can when you make her work schedule. You may find that there is no conflict in giving her time off if her traditions are different, and it can relieve a great deal of anxiety to take her preferences into consideration. If you do need your au pair to work during the holiday, please tell her way in advance so that it is not a surprise. Help her to see this as a positive aspect of the cultural exchange if she will be actively sharing in the holiday celebration.

Changes to Routine

The dynamics of established relationships and routines change during the holiday. The high emotions and energy of the children (compared to their more reasonable behavior during the rest of the year) may seem like craziness to the au pair. Assure her that this new set of behaviors is temporary and the household will be back to normal soon. In the meantime, suggest specific things she can do to help. Encourage her to roll with the punches and enjoy the craziness. Also, the number of gifts, food, decorations, etc., can be unfamiliar and overwhelming. Try to include the au pair in some quiet, meaningful time together when the true spirit of the holidays is shared.

These are important days ahead. This is perhaps the greatest opportunity of the year to respect and learn about cultural differences, which is, indeed, one of the basic elements of the Au Pair in America program. There will be fun-filled memories. This should be a time of love and understanding. Please do your part to make that happen.

Wishing you every happiness of the season!

Photo: Sean Hobson

What to do After an Auto Accident

Having a car accident is a very upsetting, stressful situation. Being prepared and knowing what to do can make things a little bit easier. Make sure you know which host parent to call in case of an accident.

Make sure you have all the necessary documents in your car glove box. Read this post on What to Keep in the Car Glove Box for a detailed list.

If you have an accident: (from Edmunds.com)

  1. Keep Safety First. Drivers involved in minor accidents with no serious injuries should move cars to the side of the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic. Leaving cars parked in the middle of the road or busy intersections can result in additional accidents and injuries. If a car cannot be moved, drivers and passengers should remain in the cars with seatbelts fastened for everyone’s safety until help arrives. Make sure to turn on hazard lights and set out cones, flares, or warning triangles if possible.
  2. Exchange Information. After the accident, exchange the following information: name, address, phone number, insurance company, policy number, driver license number, and license plate number for the driver and the owner of each vehicle. If the driver’s name is different from the name of the insured, establish what the relationship is and take down the name and address for each individual. Also make a written description of each car, including year, make, model and color — and the exact location of the collision and how it happened. Finally, be polite but don’t tell the other drivers or the police that the accident was your fault, even if you think it was.
  3. Photograph and Document the Accident. Use your camera to document the damage to all the vehicles. Keep in mind that you want your photos to show the overall context of the accident so that you can make your case to a claims adjuster. If there were witnesses, try to get their contact information; they may be able to help you if the other drivers dispute your version of what happened.

Image: cygnus921 (Flickr)

What to Keep in the Car Glove Box

If you are like me, you probably have napkins and straws from fast-food restaurants and other assorted items in your glove box in the car.  It can be a nifty storage place, but its main purpose is to keep some important documents related to the car. glove box

It is very important that you keep all of the necessary documents in the car glove box. These items will be necessary if you are stopped by a police officer or have an auto accident. Not having these items can result in your receiving a ticket (citation) from a police officer.

Essential Documents

*Some host parents may tell you to carry these in your wallet instead of keeping them in the car. Follow their instructions.

Helpful Extras

  • Flashlight
  • Tire Pressure Gauge
  • Vehicle Owner’s Manual
  • Tissues and Hand Sanitizer
  • First Aid Kit

In Your Wallet
Carry your DC driver’s license or country driver’s license (if you are in the first 60 days) with you at all times, especially when you are driving.

Image: cygnus921 (Flickr)

Fall Traditions: Decorating Pumpkins

A treasured fall/Halloween tradition in the United States is pumpkin carving or making “jack-o’-lanterns”. Whether this is your first time decorating a pumpkin or you are a seasoned pro, these videos have a few tips and ideas you may find helpful.

How do I make it safe for the children? If you are carving a pumpkin with your host child(ren), remember to be very careful with them around sharp tools. You can purchase kid-safe pumpkin carving tools that cut without a sharp blade. If you don’t have those, let kids help with all of the tasks that don’t involve a knife such as: picking the pumpkin, scooping out the insides, choosing the design and adding any other decorative touches. You can buy or print pumpkin templates online and school aged kids can use a thumbtack to mark the pattern on the pumpkin. Here you can find a free template and instructions on how to do this.

How long do they last? Carved jack-o-lanterns begin to deteriorate after just a few days outside (depending on the weather). Temperatures over 60˚F (15˚C), rain, and freezing then thawing all make them rot more quickly. So, if you want your pumpkin to be fresh on the big night, don’t carve it more than a few days before Halloween and/or keep it in a cool place.

Check out Au Pair in America’s Halloween Fun Pinterest board and our Fall Bucket List for more fall traditions and activities to try.

Here are video readings of two of my favorite pumpkin stories.

Image: Jeff Kramer

Preparing for Cold Weather

We’re in that time of year where the temperature starts dipping a little lower. It can be 70°F (21°C) one day and 40°F (4°C) the next. This is a time when many people begin to opt for indoor activities instead of outdoor ones. As the pandemic continues, we may be rethinking that this year. CDC guidelines state that outdoor gatherings and activities are generally safer than indoor ones.

There is a Scandinavian saying about this…

If you come from a warmer climate this may sound impossible to you. Over the years I have noticed that the temperature difference is much easier on those who have a gradual adjustment. It allows your body time to adjust to the lower temperatures. So, that’s the good news for all of you who are already here. Your body is already getting adjusted, give your mind a chance to stay open to enjoying the outdoors.

The next thing to do is get yourself the proper clothing and accessories. Start shopping for cold weather clothing: sweater, coat, gloves, hat, scarf, long underwear & boots. Ask your host family if they have some you can use and then start looking out for sales and checking thrift shops for the rest. Take a look at what you already have and think of ways to layer it. A long sleeve t-shirt under a sweatshirt may be as warm as a jacket. A pair of leggings or tights under a pair of jeans adds a lot of warmth.

It may also help to remind yourself that people in other parts of the U.S. and other countries experience much colder temperatures than we do and are still able to enjoy the outdoors.

Pick your activities carefully. If you are sitting next to a fire pit or doing physical activity you will feel warmer. When you take the kids to the playground or out in the snow, don’t sit on the bench and watch. You will feel warmer and have more fun if you are actively involved and having fun with them.

If you have tips on enjoying the cold weather, please share them!

CONTEST: The first au pair in our cluster to message Christine or Lisa with their favorite cold weather activity will win a prize!

Image: Canva.com