Tag Archives: tips

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

 

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)

Back to School Planning

Back to school time is here. This can mean changes to the au pair schedule and possibly to the duties.  It is very important to communicate these changes to avoid problems.

Here is a list of topics to consider discussing:

  • Au pair’s work schedule
  • The children’s school and activity schedules
  • Where the children get dropped off and picked up and who will be doing this
  • What to do if a child is staying home sick, late to school, does not get off the bus (if they are supposed to)
  • Driving laws regarding stopping for school buses
  • How to tell if school has been canceled or delayed for bad weather
  • Add the au pair to your list of people allowed to pick up the kids from school and explain the process
  • What to pack for lunch
  • The routine after school (do they have free time before starting homework, what to give for a snack, any chores, where do they put their backpacks & lunchboxes)
  • How to communicate about what’s going on at school. Your Kids in Care logbook from Au Pair in America can be a great two-way communication tool for keeping track of schedules, afterschool activities and day to day info that needs to be transferred between host parents and au pair.
  • If your au pair will be the one going through the children’s backpack and helping with homework, consider designating an area for putting things that need to be read and/or signed by parents.

Here are some Printable Fill-in-the-Blank School Notes for parents. You can print these out and have them ready for times when the kids are absent, late, have an early dismissal or you need to give permission for something.

Check out Au Pair in America’s Pinterest School Tips and Ideas pinboard for things like organization ideas, back to school traditions, printable lunch box notes, and fun lunch recipes.

 

Technology Tips for Au Pairs

How Would You Feel?

Imagine if you went to the hospital and the doctors and nurses seemed more interested in texting or tweeting than caring for you. How would that make you feel about yourself and about them?  Would you think that you were getting the treatment you deserved?  Would you feel like paying the bill after your stay?

How Would You Act?

Being a childcare provider is a very important job because you are helping to shape our next generation. What message are you sending to your host kids when you would rather interact with phone than with them? How will they feel about themselves and about you? Children feel as though everything is about them. They will see this as a rejection of them and they will be more likely to act out.

Safety Comes First

Not paying enough attention to your host kids poses safety concerns too. Accidents happen, but when an adult caregiver is close by and appropriately supervising children, the chances of a major injury are dramatically reduced.

Technology Best Practices

When you are working, you should not do any of the following:

  • Text/Talk to friends/family on the phone
  • Chat/Instant Message with friends/family online
  • Use Skype or FaceTime
  • Email
  • Tweet
  • Update your status on Facebook or any other social media
  • Use Snapchat, WhatsApp or any other app or social media site
  • Watch YouTube videos
  • Upload photos on Instagram
  • Play video games
  • Use the phone or other device while driving (Never do this- even when you aren’t working!)

Exceptions- the only time it’s okay to use your computer, phone, tablet, etc. while you are working is when your host parents have given your specific permission to do the following:

  • Text/Call your host parents
  • Help your host children find a pre-approved website (like Nickjr.com)
  • A job-related task that your host family has asked you to complete

When in doubt- ask your host parents!

Finally, do not text, scroll through Facebook, answer your phone, etc. when eating meals with your host family or while talking with your host parents. Even if you think you’re a great multitasker, your host family will think you are being rude.

Going unplugged during work may seem impossible, but think about this — even if you work 45 hours a week, you still have 123 hours left in the week for all of that other stuff, or about 70 hours (if you are getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night).

A Note to Host Parents

Please be clear about what you consider acceptable technology use during work hours to avoid misunderstandings. Your au pair is most likely very accustomed to being plugged in at all times. She doesn’t intend to be rude, but she might not realize how her actions will be perceived. Please use this information as an opportunity to begin a dialogue on the issue.

(Adapted from Christine Connally’s blog post, Going Unplugged During Work Hours)

2018/2019 Winter Vacation: Tips for Success

Photo: m01229 (Flickr)

During the last week of December and first week of January, many host kids will have between ten days to two weeks off from school for winter vacation. The thought of having the kids home for multiple days during the winter can send even the most seasoned childcare giver into a panic. Cold weather, shorter days, extra sugar, later bedtimes, and visiting relatives can be a challenge, but with some pre-planning, you can provide your host kids with a vacation to remember.

Tip #1: Plan Ahead

Tip #2: Dress the Part

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Winter has finally arrived in DC. It’s important to dress for cold weather and to make sure that your host children are dressed warmly too. If this is your first experience with really cold weather, ask your host parents for advice on staying warm. For more info, read this blog post from October: It’s Cold Out There! A 2018 Guide to DC Winter Weather.

Tip #3: Plan a Cozy Day Indoors

  • Staying home for the day? APIA’s Pinterest boards have loads of winter fun and holiday crafts and activities.
  • Help the kids organize their toys and rooms with these suggestions. With mom and dad’s permission, perhaps your host kids can donate some of the toys they have outgrown. This will create more room for the new toys from Santa.
  • Looking for a fun baking activity? Gingerbread is a delicious way to celebrate the season!

Tip #4: Make a Date

Playdates can be a great way for kids to socialize and work on the important skills necessary for being a good friend. Talk with your host family about planning a playdate over winter vacation. With their permission, you can use our cluster list to find an au pair who lives near you and has host kids who are compatible ages with your host kids. If hosting doesn’t work, you can also make plans to meet up at the library for a free story hour or crafting session.

Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

Adapted from an earlier post by Christine Connally

This time of year, it’s easy to get distracted, and when you’re distracted you’re at a greater risk for holiday crime.

Here are some important tips that are always a good idea, but especially during the holiday shopping season.

  • Always pay attention to your surroundings.  Avoid distractions like using 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 your 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 trip, so you aren’t carrying them with you for long periods of time.
  • Whenever possible, shop during daylight hours and if you must shop after dark, go with a friend.
  • If you’re 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.  Return to 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 with you.
  • Trust your instincts, If something seems suspicious or unsafe, you are probably right.
  • Remember the saying, “Better Safe Than Sorry.”

Celebrate Halloween 2018!

JWI_HalloweenOwlHalloween (or Hallow e’en) is a celebration observed in a number of countries including the United States on October 31st.  Halloween has a special significance for children, who dress in funny or ghostly costumes and knock on neighborhood doors shouting “Trick or Treat!” Pirates and princesses, ghosts and witches all hold bags open to catch the candy or other goodies that the neighbors drop in.

Since the 800’s, November 1st is a religious holiday known as All Saints’ Day. The Mass that was said on this day was called Allhallowmas. The evening before became known as All Hallow e’en, or Halloween. Like some other American celebrations, its origins lie in both pre-Christian and Christian customs.

The most popular Halloween activities include trick-or-treating attending Halloween costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfiresapple bobbing, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.

For more information and a “how-to” video on carving a pumpkin, click here.  Find more pumpkin carving ideas, scary snacks, and other fun Halloween activities on the APIA Halloween Fun Pinterest board.

Halloween can be a lot of fun but it is also a time when safety should come first. Here are some tips for Monday:

Adult supervision is essential. Always accompany the children if they are going door to door to trick or treat

Try tick-or-treat-friendly homes. Ensure the children only visit houses with lights on. And, you might also suggest the houses they visit have some sort of Halloween decoration on the porch.

Stay outside. Make sure the children don’t go inside someone’s house. They can trick or treat on the porch.

Remain visible. Dress the children in bright costumes or have them wear reflective strips or carry a glow stick or flashlight.

Quality-check treats. Check the candy before they eat it. Throw out any candy that is not in its original wrapper or looks like it has been tampered with.

Say “no” to strangers. Remind the children to never accept a ride or go anywhere with a stranger.  

Click here for more Halloween safety tips and a fun word game to help teach these tips to your host kids. 

2018 Halloween Safety Tips

Going trick or treating? Check out these tips from the CDC to help make the festivities fun and safe for trick-or-treaters.

alphabet letter s Swords, knives, and other costume accessories should be short, soft, and flexible.

alphabet letter a Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.

alphabet letter f Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.

alphabet letter e Examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them. Limit the amount of treats you eat.

 

alphabet letter h Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you. WALK and don’t run from house to house.

alphabet letter a Always test make-up in a small area first. Remove it before bedtime to prevent possible skin and eye irritation.

alphabet letter l Look both ways before crossing the street. Use crosswalks wherever possible.

alphabet letter l Lower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses.

alphabet letter o Only walk on sidewalks whenever possible, or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.

alphabet letter w Wear well-fitting masks, costumes, and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls.

alphabet letter e Eat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid eating homemade treats made by strangers.

alphabet letter e Enter homes only if you’re with a trusted adult. Only visit well-lit houses. Never accept rides from strangers.

alphabet letter n Never walk near lit candles or luminaries. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

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Download the CDC’s Halloween Safety Scramble to review these safety tips with your kids.

It’s Cold Out There! A 2018 Guide to DC Winter Weather

Reality Bites

When I moved to DC from the warm South Carolina coast for graduate school, I refused to believe that winter weather would actually arrive and (even worse) stick around for several months.

In September, I was confused by the empty hooks hanging in the back of all of the classrooms. I couldn’t imagine that in a few short months each hook would be holding a winter coat.

In October, I ignored the racks of coats and stacks of sweaters displayed in all of the stores. My lightweight jacket and jeans seemed to work just fine.

In November, I dashed to and from the car, grateful for the warmth and heat inside my house and university.  “It’s just a cold snap,” I told myself.

And then it snowed.

I watched my neighbors shovel their sidewalks and head off to work. I checked the university website and was shocked that classes hadn’t been canceled. December had arrived and I was living in DC without a hat, gloves, scarf, or boots. I slipped and slid my way to my car, carefully drove to Nordstroms (marveling at the snow plows clearing the roads), and bought the only pair of snow boots left in the store.

Photo credit: Catherine McEaddy Holmes

Embrace Your Experience

Two decades later, my closet is fully stocked with coats and everything else necessary to live, work, and play in the winter. Because that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned about living in a city with winter weather- unless we have a blizzard, people go outside in the cold weather. In fact, they even have fun outdoors.

Children love to play in the snow- and they need the exercise. Staying cooped up inside only leads to grumpiness and fights. It’s much more fun to stay outside and build a snowman. Au pairs need to be prepared to join in the excitement.

For those of you not used to this weather, I understand your dismay. However, I encourage you to take advantage of this unique experience. Embrace the cold weather months as a chance to wear sweaters, try out a pair of gorgeous boots, and experience the snow. The au pair year is over very quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be home again showing your friends and families pictures of the first snowman you ever built.

Photo credit: Catherine McEaddy Holmes

Important Tips*

Dress in Layers – Consider buying sweaters, jackets and long underwear.  If you wear several layers, you can take off things to be comfortable. For example, when it might be too warm for a heavy jacket, but too cold for just a sweater, you can combine different pieces of clothing.

Set a Good Example – Host parents will expect you set the example for your kids by wearing a coat when it’s cold outside. You should have a winter coat, hats, gloves, boots, and scarves.  Your host kids will fight wearing a coat if you don’t wear one. Think of yourself as a celebrity and everyone wants to look like you — especially your kids.

Check the “Emergency Change of Clothes” – With young children, we often keep an emergency change of clothes in the car, diaper bag or at their school. If you haven’t already switched out the shorts and t-shirt for something warmer, now is the time to do it.

Buy Cold Weather Clothing Now – Many stores have sales this time of year. Target, T J Maxx, WalMart, and Macy’s have lots of outdoor gear in their stores. DSW has tons of warm and stylish boots and has many DC-area locations, including Columbia Heights, Friendship Heights, and Georgetown. Lands End and Amazon are great online alternatives. An even more affordable option would be to go to a thrift shop. There are many in the area and you can often find a very warm jacket for a small price compared to buying one new.

Monitor School Closings and Delays– DC doesn’t get as much snow as other cold-weather places, and school is often canceled or delayed when it snows just a little. Au pairs from Germany, Poland, and other cold-weather countries will laugh at the DC area’s dysfunction in the winter ice and snow. Talk with your host family now, so you can all understand the plan for these inevitable schedule changes.

Fashionably Winterized

It’s possible to look great and still be warm. Here are a few articles to inspire you:

(*Important Tips includes information first posted on Christine Connally’s Au Pair Chatter blog. )