Author Archives: Christine Connally

Handling Problems or Poor Customer Service

Places like the DMV and Social Security office can be challenging for Americans, so I can understand how difficult it could be for an au pair to run into problems there.

If you encounter a problem in one of these locations or at other places like college enrollment, store, bank, etc., here are some tips:

  • Remain calm and polite, even if the person you are dealing with doesn’t. You don’t want to be viewed as being unreasonable or out of control, because that will not help your situation.
  • Ask to speak with a supervisor, if you are being told something that goes against the procedure you have been told (by your counselor, host parent, Au Pair in America or a previous encounter with the office you are visiting).
  • Ask for the name of the person with whom you are speaking. It is a reasonable question and can help if you need to reference this conversation later. It also adds some accountability for the person who gave you the answer.

If the supervisor is still unable to help you, please discuss the problem with your host parents and/or your community counselor. Maybe there has been a change in the procedure. If there has not been a change and you just got unlucky with the person with which you were dealing, you may find success going back another day.

Positive Discipline – Rewarding Good Behavior

Years ago when my kids were younger, I had a cluster meeting at my house and a few au pairs commented on the chore and behavior charts I had posted in my family room. With four kids, I sometimes found it difficult to keep track of who had done what and who had gained or lost various privileges. So, over the years, I have used charts to keep everything on track.  I have also created charts for host families and au pairs dealing with behavior the children may be having.

I uploaded a few of these charts in case you may find them helpful.

Positive Behavior – Recognizing and rewarding positive behavior can often be a good way to reduce negative behavior. The goal behind lots of children’s actions is the same, attention seeking. Try to show them more positive attention when they do well and make less of a fuss over negative behaviors.

Explain how the chart will work and then look for times when you can call their attention to something they did that was kind or helpful. It is nice to have short term and longer term goals. For example, the thrill of putting a sticker on the chart can be exciting for toddlers and preschoolers and that along with your words of praise are instant gratification. Saying when you get 5 stickers you get a larger reward (trip to the park, extra story or video, special activity) is intended to make them want to keep up the positive behavior. Positive Behavior Chart

Tracking Privileges – For school aged children it can be helpful to tie how they are behaving to privileges they want to have. I used this chart with different colored push pins, so my children could see where they were on the ladder and I could remember who I had told they could do what. The ladder style chart is based on an idea of the Dilley Family (famous parents of sextuplets.) I figured if it worked for them with six kids, it might work for me- and it has for many years. You can make this chart your own by substituting the kinds of activities your kids enjoy.  Ladder Chart 

Chores – Having chores teaches children that they are an important part of the family and their efforts count. This teaches responsibility and promotes positive self-esteem.  Chore Chart with Basic Chores

These are just a starting point, you can make your own charts and even involve the children in the process.

#1 Tip – Be Consistent!

All adults in the house need to be on the same page. It takes time to change behavior. Don’t expect instant results.

 

Host Family Hints to Help Your Au Pair Match Flourish

Host parents have many responsibilities and are often very busy. Hosting an au pair can provide help with a large part of the childcare related responsibilities. Below are a few simple things you can do to help your au pair match flourish.

Treat Your Au Pair Like a Family Member – Au pairs who feel appreciated and included as a member of their host family tend to see their host children as family members and feel very invested in their happiness and success.

Stay on Top of Payments –  Au pairs can feel very uncomfortable if they need to ask for their weekly stipend payment. This can also make them feel like their work is not appreciated or you are unconcerned about their needs. Add a recurring weekly event on your calendar, use payment apps or automatic bank transfer to schedule your au pair’s stipend payment and give yourself one less thing to remember.

The same is true for their transportation costs to cluster meetings and classes. Au pairs let their host family know about the costs but some host parents don’t always follow through and reimburse them. Here’s a blog post with information and tips on how to handle transportation costs.

Communication – Make time every couple of weeks for a check-in conversation. This provides your au pair a time to bring up questions or concerns which she may be hesitant to bring up when she see’s how busy you are day to day. It’s also a good time for discussing any concerns you have as well as planning for upcoming events or schedule changes. 

Photo: Shared by an APIA Host Family

 

Au Pair Hint For Success – Finish your Year Strong

In the final months of your au pair year, it can be tempting to become relaxed in the way you complete your duties. You may be thinking about your travel month, returning home and the next chapter of your life. That can be exciting and sometimes a little overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to talk with your host family, community counselor and friends if you need support.

You have done a wonderful job and made it so far! Don’t forget you are still an important part of your host family and they are still counting on you in these final months of your program.

Holiday & Vacation Reminders

“Rest and be thankful.” – William Wordsworth

Holidays and vacations are a great opportunity to rest, recharge and explore the U.S.

Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of the summer travel season. Here are some reminders about program rules regarding holidays, vacations, and international travel.

Holidays

  • Host families are not required to give au pairs off on any specific holidays.
  • Each host family will make different arrangements for holidays, some au pairs will be off and others will be required to work.
  • Au pairs should not make plans for holidays without checking with their host family first.

Vacations

  • During the pandemic, it is important that au pairs and host families discuss what travel and activities are an acceptable level of risk before plans are made.
  • Au pairs earn 2 weeks of paid vacation during the course of their year.
  • Vacation time should be mutually agreed upon.
  • All vacations should be preplanned (at least 4 weeks in advance).
  • All au pair’s friends and/or family visits/vacations should be pre-approved prior to purchasing tickets.
  • If an au pair travels with her host family, it should be discussed in advance whether this is the au pair’s vacation or if she is working.
  • If an au pair travels with the host family to work, the host family is required to pay for her transportation, lodging, and meals. Regulations still apply while on vacation (i.e. not working more than 10 hours/day and 45 hours/week, minimum 1 1/2 days off, and private bedroom).

Travel Outside of the U.S.

Check out this blog post with current information on international travel.

 

Photo: Leah Kelly from Pexels

 

Travel Outside of the U.S.

10 Things to Know Before You Go

  1. There is always some risk with traveling outside of the U.S., as re-entry is at the discretion of the port of entry agent. APIA recommends that au pairs and host families discuss the risks and decide whether they are comfortable.
  2. Please review the appropriate checklist(s) from APIA, as you make your travel plans.
  3. All Au Pairs must mail their original DS-2019 along with a Travel Validation Request Form to APIA, at least 3-4 weeks prior to international travel. Check out this blog post for step-by-step instructions on how to send this in the mail. Note: The travel validation ensures that you are in good standing with the program, it is not formal permission to travel. 
  4. Year 1 Au Pairs must have a valid visa to travel internationally and plan to return to the U.S. prior to the date their visa says it expires. This can be different from the actual program end date.
  5. Year 2 Au Pairs may visit Canada, Mexico, and the adjacent islands due to the Automatic Revalidation Policy. No other international travel is allowed in Year 2.
  6. Year 3 Au Pairs (special extension) are not permitted to travel internationally.
  7. All Au Pairs must independently research whether they will need an additional visitor’s visa for their destination. This will depend on their nationality and travel destination.
  8. Only fully vaccinated travelers will be admitted into the U.S. This means that all foreign visitors must be vaccinated against COVID-19 and must show proof of vaccination before boarding a U.S.-bound airline.
  9. All Au Pairs will need to get a COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) no more than 1 day before they travel by air into the United States. They must show the negative result to the airline before boarding the flight. This test is not for a medical reason, so it will not be covered by insurance and you will need to cover the cost yourself.
  10. When you return to the U.S. you should follow CDC and local guidelines regarding quarantine and testing.

Photo: Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 8th

Mother’s Day recognizes mothers, motherhood, and maternal bonds in general, as well as the positive contributions that they make to society. It is celebrated in the United States on the second Sunday in May. It was established by Anna Jarvis, with the first official Mother’s Day was celebrated at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, on May 10, 1908.

You will find lots of fun ideas for projects you can make with your host children on the Au Pair in America Mother’s Day pinboard.

Photo: Mike van Dalen (Flickr)

How to Handle Transportation Costs

Program rules dictate several situations when the host parents are required to cover an au pair’s transportation costs. Aside from those specific requirements there are some things to consider when deciding how to handle an au pair’s personal transportation.

Situations when host parents are responsible for the au pair’s transportation costs:

  • To/from cluster meetings
  • To/from classes (for the education requirement)
  • When they are transporting the host children

What are some ways host parents can pay for those required transportation costs?

  • By providing car use and paying for the cost of gas in those situations
  • By giving an allowance for Metro or bus fare
  • By giving an allowance toward Uber/Lyft
  • By paying for bike share

Who is responsible for an au pair’s transportation in her free time? 

  • If an au pair has car use, it would be reasonable for the host parents to ask her to pay for the gas used for personal car use.
    • If the primary use of the car are things host parents will cover (host parent use, transporting the children, au pair classes and cluster meetings) then normally host parents will put in the gas or give au pair money to fill up the car and then ask her to replace the gas she’s using for personal time.
    • If the car is exclusively used by the au pair, she can be responsible for filling up the car. Then host parents should calculate how much the au pair will use for the things they are responsible for (transporting the children, au pair classes and cluster meetings) and give her money to cover that each week.
  • If no car use is provided and an au pair must rely solely on public transportation, many host parents will give a transportation allowance to help with those costs.
    • If your au pair is relying on public transportation, would you feel comfortable having her walk home from metro or bus stop at midnight? If not, how can you help with that?

What factors should you consider when deciding how to handle personal transportation costs?

  • Where do you live?
    • Are you within easy walking and/or bike-riding distance to shopping and activities?
  • Is car use provided?
    • When host parents provide car use, that includes them covering the cost of car insurance and maintenance. So, it is fair to ask the au pair to pay for her own gas for personal use.
    • If host parents are not providing car use, many will figure out how much they are saving by not paying for insurance and maintenance costs and offer that to their au pair as an allowance for public transportation (metro, bus, Uber/Lyft).

Other Things to Consider

  • Au pairs are happiest when they are able to explore the area and make friends. This goes a long way to reduce homesickness and ensure a great cultural exchange experience. The more host parents can do to support this, the more successful their match will typically be.
  • When car use is provided, be clear about any limitations. Is it okay to transport friends, take the car overnight, go on a road trip, drive to Baltimore or Ocean City? In what situations does she have automatic permission and when does she need to ask in advance?
  • Every match is different. Transportation is only one aspect. Whatever works well for a host family and their au pair is what’s best (as long as the minimum program requirements are being met). Things like whether a host family is paying a higher stipend (over the regulation minimum), offering other benefits and driving the au pair to some places all may factor into how personal transportation costs are handled.
  • Please discuss transportation plans for cluster meetings in advance. While participation in cluster meetings is not mandatory, it is strongly encouraged. Cluster meetings are important for an au pair’s overall cultural experience, making friends and getting to know her counselor. Lack of transportation to meetings should not be an impediment to those experiences.

If you have questions or concerns about how to handle transportation, reach out to your counselor to discuss.

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio

What is Passover?

What is Passover?

Passover is the Jewish celebration lasting seven to eight days (seven in Israel, eight outside of it) that marks the freedom of the Jews from enslavement by the Egyptians. According to the Old Testament, the Jews, led by Moses, had requested freedom from the Pharaoh of Egypt but were denied. To punish the Egyptians, God sent the 10 plagues to Egypt to convince the Pharaoh to release the Jews. The last of these plagues, and the most devastating, was to kill the firstborn male in each Egyptian household.

When is Passover?

Passover in 2022 will start at sunset on Friday, the 15th of April and will continue for 7 days until Saturday, the 23rd of April.

How is Passover celebrated?

Family and friends gather together after nightfall on the first and second nights of the holiday for the high point of the festival observance, the Seder. During the Seder, which means “order” in Hebrew, the experience of the Exodus is told in story, song, prayer, and the tasting of symbolic foods. The Seder meals include four cups of wine, eating matzah and bitter herbs, and retelling the story of the Exodus.

Here are some websites, with Passover activity ideas for kids.