Tag Archives: au pair

Make Plans for Summer Fun with the Kids!

When the kids are out of school on summer break there are soooo many possibilities. But, if you don’t make plans, you will often end up in the house with bored kids getting into trouble and arguing with their siblings.  Make plans!

Having lots of ideas ready can minimize those problems.

Looking for fun activity ideas to get the summer started off right with your host kids?

The Au Pair in America Summer Fun Pinboard is a great place to start. Together, create a Summer Bucket List. Talk with the kids about things they would like to see and do. Even toddlers and preschoolers can contribute to the conversation. Run these plans by your host parents and clear things like how much you may spend and when is best to do some of these activities.

Check back here next week for information on Camp Au Pair in America: a weekly blog series with themes for a summer break filled with fun and new adventures.

Photo: MissMessie (Flickr)

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.

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

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

Hints for Success – Homesickness/Culture Shock

Almost everyone experiences culture shock when they come to a completely new environment. Everything is different: the language, the food, and the people.

Here are my Top 5 Tips for Dealing with Homesickness

1. Make Friends – Don’t wait for other au pairs to reach out to you, reach out to them. There are lots of other new au pairs who are feeling the same way you are right now. Set a goal to reach out to one of them each day. Some will respond and some will not. Don’t let that discourage you. No one will ever be mad at you for sending them a message to say hello or ask if they want to do something together. Make friends from various countries and you will also get a chance to practice your English skills together.

2. Stay in touch with your home country, but not too much. Skyping or talking on the phone every day with your family and/or friends back home normally makes homesickness worse. Try emailing instead and reduce the Skype and phone calls to once a week, until you feel stronger. It’s much harder seeing the faces and hearing the voices of those you miss.

3. Get out of the house (or your room specifically) – Go to cluster meetings, have coffee or movies with other au pairs, join a gym, go to the library, go for a walk, visit the mall, get a manicure, visit a museum. If someone invites you out, say “yes.” Also, don’t be afraid to do the inviting. If your host family invites you to do things with them, say “yes.” This will help you get to know each other and contribute to your overall happiness. We are still living in a pandemic. Remember to be safe and follow your host family rules and any local rules for masking and other precautions.

4. Realize that it definitely gets better – All au pairs experience homesickness and nearly all of them stay and have a successful year (some stay for two years.) So, it must get better, right? Once you get past the initial homesickness, most au pairs report how quickly the year goes by.

5. Make Plans – Create your own Au Pair Bucket List (places you want to go, new foods to try, new things to experience during your year in the U.S.) and start doing them now. Post on our cluster Facebook group to find others who may want to join you on your adventures.

Photo by:  Shimelle Laine (Flickr)

Links & Resources for Au Pair Taxes

Au Pair in America staff, including its community counselors, are not qualified to provide any official tax information. We recommend that you use H & R Block Expat Tax Services or another professional if you have any specific questions regarding U.S. taxes or need help to file your taxes. Below are some resources and general information.

Where to Get Started

  • Au Pair in America has a Tax Information for Au Pairs page and Tax Information document that explains the basics of how taxes work in the U.S.
  • You can view an Instructional Tax Video in your au pair portal. Once you are logged into your au pair portal → go to “Resources” tab → “In the US” → click “Instructional Tax Video for Guidance”
  • April 18, 2022, is the deadline to submit your 2021 tax forms and payment. Doing so after that deadline can lead to extra fees and interest charges.
  • From the H&R Block Expat Tax Service: “U.S. law requires au pairs who earn more than the filing threshold in stipends during a calendar year to file a U.S. federal tax return. Under the new tax law, the filing threshold is currently $5. Depending on the state in which you earned the income, you may also be subject to state tax filing. If you don’t file, you risk incurring costly interest and penalties, and it may complicate obtaining a U.S. visa in the future.”

If You Want to Get Your Taxes Professionally Done

Au Pair in America has partnered with H & R Block Expat Tax Services which has set up an easy, affordable, and virtual option for au pairs to assist with tax filing. The promotional fee is $50 through February 28th, which includes Federal and State (if applicable) filing. Starting on March 1st the fee increases to $99.

If You Plan to Do Your Own Taxes

  • Even if you are planning to prepare your own taxes, I recommend you check out the information on the H&R Block Expat Tax Service page. Scroll down the page and see the answers to lots of common questions au pairs have about taxes.
  • If you are planning to prepare your taxes on your own (or with help from your host parents) you can get links to the tax forms HERE.
  • If you plan to file your taxes by mail, here are some things you will need to know:
  • Some other important details:
    • Include your full name and Social Security Number on your tax forms and your payment (check or money order).
    • Make copies of all of the papers you mail to the IRS (your forms and payment) and keep those for your records. (This is very important in case you receive letters from the IRS about your taxes in the future.)

Image: 401(K) 2012

 

Valentine’s Day Activities

Valentine’s Day (February 14) is a time of love, friendship, giving, and caring. Americans use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to tell friends and family how much they care.  Children usually exchange cards at school.

Are you looking for Valentine’s day activity and craft ideas?

Look no further…  Au Pair in America has a Pinterest pinboard devoted to Valentine’s Day:

APIA Valentine’s Day Pinboard

Photo: Clever Cupcakes (Flickr)

Welcome to Camp Au Pair in America!

When kids are out of school for the summer, it doesn’t take long for them to become bored and  sometimes that leads to sibling squabbles and mischief. Even though they don’t realize it, they are usually missing routine and predictability in their daily schedule. One solution is to make fun plans to keep them busy! 

Each week this summer we will share a different Camp Au Pair theme. These weekly themes are designed to give you ideas to keep your host kids occupied and engaged all summer long. They will also be learning. (But shhhh, don’t tell them that part.) Check back each Friday, for the next week’s theme. This gives you a chance to make plans and gather materials for the next week. For each theme there will be crafts, games, snacks and activities. You can just use these ideas or add your own and customize the themes to fit the ages and interests of your host children.

Here are the themes you can look forward to:

  • Art Experiences
  • Backyard Safari
  • Bugs & Butterflies
  • Cars and Trucks
  • Dinosaurs
  • Explore the World
  • Nature Explorations
  • Outer Space
  • Pirate Adventures
  • Princesses & Knights
  • Science (STEM)
  • Under the Sea

Check out Summer Fun & Summer Holidays pin boards for even more ideas.

If you get some great pictures doing these activities with your host kids, please send those to your counselor. We love to share your accomplishments and inspire other au pairs!

Let’s make this an amazing summer!

 

Social Distancing: Free Virtual Escape Rooms

Libraries may be closed due to COVID-19, but many librarians are coming up with creative ideas to keep people entertained and promote literacy. One of those creative ideas is free virtual escape rooms. With a variety of themes, some may be fun to do on your own, others as activities with the kids.

Sydney Krawiec, Youth Services Librarian at Peters Township Public Library in McMurray, PA created this Hogwarts Virtual Escape Room. She shared this tutorial on how to create your own virtual escape room, which seemed to spark the creativity of many other librarians.

Some amazing librarians all over the country have been busy creating virtual escape rooms with a variety of themes.

Special thanks to the Humboldt County Library in Winnemucca, Nevada for gathering info on many of these escape rooms. Follow them on Facebook for their storytimes and weekly Facebook Live Science Time on Fridays.

Image: Canva.com