Tag Archives: tips

Au Pair Technology Tips

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

Life as an au pair is a fine balance between employee and family member. You live with your host family and participate with them as a member of the family, but you also have clear responsibilities as a childcare provider.

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 a computer 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.

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.

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

  • Texting
  • Talking on the phone
  • Chatting online
  • Using Skype or FaceTime
  • Messaging
  • Emailing
  • Tweeting
  • Updating your status on Facebook or any other social media site
  • Using Snapchat, WhatsApp or any other app or social media site
  • Watching videos on YouTube
  • Uploading photos on Instagram
  • Using the phone or tablet while driving
  • Exceptions- the only time it’s okay to use your computer, phone, tablet, etc. is when your host parents have given your specific permission to text or call them, help your host children find a pre-approved website (like Nickjr.com), or some other job-related task that your host family has asked you to complete. When in doubt- ask your host parents.

Finally, please do not text, scroll through Facebook, answer your phone, etc. when eating meals with your host family or talking with your host parents. Even if you think you’re a great multi-tasker, 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).

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. Her intention is not 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)

Holidays and Vacation Reminders

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

With the summer travel season fast approaching, here are some reminders about program rules regarding holidays and vacations.

Holidays

  • Host families are not required to give au pairs any specific holidays.
  • Each host family will make different arrangements on holidays; some au pairs will be off and others will be required to work.
  • As holidays approach, it is helpful for host parents to let their au pairs know if they will be off or not, so plans can be made.
  • Au pairs should not make plans for holidays without checking with their host families first.

Vacations

  • 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 pre-planned (at least 4 weeks in advance.)
  • All au pair’s friends and/or family visits should be pre-approved prior to purchasing tickets.
  • If an au pair travels with her host family, discuss in advance the expectations of the trip:
    • If an au pair travels with her host family for work, the host family is required to pay for the au pair’s transportation, lodging, and meals.
    • If an au pair travels with her host family for vacation only and is not required to work, discuss the expectations for her participation in family activities in detail BEFORE the start of the trip.
  • For more information about scheduling vacation time, see APIA’s Tips for Current Host Families: Vacations.

Travel Outside the U.S.

  • During their first year, au pairs are allowed to travel outside of the U.S. and return. However, there are some important steps to take:
    • Au pairs must have their DS2019 signed (travel validation) PRIOR to their departure from the US.
    • It is essential that au pairs make their travel plans to return to the U.S. prior to the expiration date listed on their visa. This date can sometimes be earlier than their actual year end date.
    • More information and the travel validation request form may be found here on the Au Pair in America website.
  • There are limitations on travel outside of the U.S. for second year (extension) au pairs. Please speak with Catherine prior to making travel plans.
  • More information can be found by selecting the Au Pair Resources tab on the top of this page and looking under “Au Pair Travel Outside the US.”

Outdoor Safety Tips

As the days get longer, it’s finally time to head outside and enjoy the sunshine. Before dashing off to the playground, review these important tips to help you do your job safely and carefully. Remember, if you are on duty, the safety and well-being of the children is your job.

Supervision 

  • Whether you are at the park, in the backyard, or in the playroom, stay with the children at all times!   
  • If you have a middle-schooler, who is able to walk to and from school or play outside with friends, you still need to know where he/she is and whether an adult is present. Make plans for when he/she will call you, where you can find him/her, and what time you expect him/her home.
  • Children should never talk to strangers or go near a stranger’s car. They should not accept money, candy or gifts from strangers and never take a ride from a stranger.

Street Safety

  • Look both ways before crossing the street.
  • Discuss traffic lights – Green means go, Yellow means wait, Red means stop.
  • Never chase a ball into the street.
  • Streets are for cars – children should play in a yard, not the street.
  • Learn street signs and what they mean (STOP sign, CROSSWALK, etc.).
  • Never play behind cars that are parked in the driveway.
  • Watch carefully when walking behind parked cars.

Click here for more safety tips.

2017 Winter Vacation Battle Plan

Photo: m01229 (Flickr)

Photo: m01229 (Flickr)

During the last weeks of December, 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

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 2017 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 to 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.”

It’s Cold Out There! A 2017 Guide to DC Winter Weather

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.

That first 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.

Seventeen years 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.

Important Tips*

Photo credit: Catherine McEaddy Holmes

Photo credit: Catherine McEaddy Holmes

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 is 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– Because DC doesn’t get as much snow as the Alps, 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.

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

Fashionably Winterized

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

Au Pair Technology Tips

Imagine if you went to the hospital and the doctors and nurses were 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?

Life as an au pair is a fine balance between employee and family member. You live with your host family and participate with them as a member of the family, but you also have clear responsibilities as a childcare provider.

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 a computer 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.

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.

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

  • Texting
  • Talking to friends on the phone
  • Chatting with friends online
  • Using Skype or FaceTime
  • Messaging
  • Emailing
  • Tweeting
  • Updating your status on Facebook or any other social media site
  • Using Snapchat, WhatsApp or any other app or social media site
  • Watching videos on YouTube
  • Uploading photos on Instagram
  • Playing Pokemon Go
  • Using the phone or tablet while driving
  • Exceptions- the only time it’s okay to use your computer, phone, tablet, etc. is when your host parents have given your specific permission to text or call them, help your host children find a pre-approved website (like Nickjr.com), or some other job-related task that your host family has asked you to complete. When in doubt- ask your host parents.

Finally, please do not text, scroll through Facebook, answer your phone, etc. when eating meals with your host family or talking with your host parents. Even if you think you’re a great multi-tasker, 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).

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. Her intention is not 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)

Celebrate Halloween 2017!

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. 

2017 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.

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-1-51-57-pm

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

Keeping Our Kids Safe and Healthy This Summer (2017)

Illustration: MLARGE (clker.com)

If you ask my children what they think their parents’ most important job is, they’ll say “to keep us safe and healthy.” We use that phrase to explain everything from why our daughter can’t cross the street alone to why our son needs to go to sleep at night. While our children have been known to roll their eyes when they hear it, this all-purpose phrase is one that explains a lot of our decisions as parents. We encourage our au pairs to use it as well.

When my son was worried about his upcoming swimming lesson, I heard our au pair tell him that he was going to be safe because that was her job. Immediately, he smiled and relaxed a bit, and while he was still worried, he knew that he was safe because his au pair was there to keep him out of harm’s way.

Summer can be a wonderful time of year full of adventure and fun, but it can also be a time when routines are unsettled and rules are relaxed. I encourage you to think about ways that you can keep your children safe and healthy. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Healthy Children website has many excellent articles on how you can help your family have a wonderful and healthy summer. Below are some highlights with links to the full articles.

Summer Safety*

Sun Safety

  • Keep infants 6 months or younger out of direct sun.
  • Cover up with protective clothing and hat and dress in cool layers. Wear protective sunglasses.
  • Play outdoors in the early morning and limit your exposure to sun between 10 am and 4 pm.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen and apply it often.

Heat Safety*

  • Reduce the intensity of outdoor activities during times of high heat & humidity.
  • In Washington, DC smog can also cause days when the air is unsafe for young children to be outdoors. You can check the daily index here.
  • Children and adults should be allowed to drink water liberally and freely. When outdoors take a break for water every 20 minutes.
  • NEVER leave a child in a car. Heatstroke and death can occur quickly. Always check the backseat to make sure all children are out of the car. Leave your purse or wallet on the back seat when you are driving to remind you to check when you arrive at your destination.

Insects*

Summertime brings an onslaught of bugs- some of which can cause diseases like West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Stay up-to-date on your region and how to prevent these diseases spread by insects.

Prepare a summer first-aid kit for bug bites and more:

  • Be prepared for allergic reactions from bug bites. Benadryl is probably the most important over-the-counter medication to have in your first aid kit to treat insect bites, hives, and other allergic reactions.
  • Hydrocortisone ointment can help the itches that come from bites.
  • Use bug spray containing DEET or picaridin.

 Swimming Safety

  • Review swimming rules with your children.
  • Always make sure an adult who is able to swim is watching children when they are in the water.
  • Take steps to prevent drowning*.

*These articles have been updated by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Healthy Children website for 2017.