Tag Archives: tips

Top 3 Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

The winter has it’s own kind of beauty, but when the days are short and it’s cold outside, some people feel less energetic or even sad. The cold weather can make you feel like staying indoors. For some au pairs, those conditions can cause homesickness to resurface.

Here are some tips to fight the winter blues (sadness):

  1. Don’t hibernate. Hibernation is staying inactive or indoors for an extended period of time. Seeing friends and enjoying new activities is a great way to fight homesickness.
    • Meet up with friends for coffee or a movie.
    • Try new activities and foods.
    • Visit places you’ve been wanting to visit like museums and indoor landmarks.
  2. Stay physically active. Keeping moving helps elevate your mood and boosts your immune system.
    • Head to the gym or community center.
    • Go walking inside a shopping mall.
    • If you are feeling brave, dress warmly and get out there and enjoy the winter beauty!
  3. Maintain a Healthy Sleep Routine. It’s important to keep your body on a consistent sleep schedule. Too much or too little sleep can impact your mood and health.

Photo: Marwan Youssef

9 Winter Driving Tips to Stay Safe in the Ice & Snow

The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it. Don’t go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.

If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared, and that you know how to handle road conditions. It’s a good idea to always keep at least a half tank of gas in your car, especially in winter months where you could get stranded. It’s helpful to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, so you’re familiar with how your car handles. Consult your owner’s manual for tips specific to your vehicle.

Driving safely on icy roads

  1. Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  2. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
  3. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
  4. Keep your lights and windshield clean.
  5. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  6. Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
  7. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
  8. Don’t pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
  9. Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

Photo: Steve Pisano (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 a cell phone or listening to your iPod 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.”

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.

Reminder: It is illegal in the State of Maryland for a child under the age of 8 to be left alone in the home or car. Please make sure that your drop off routine does not include leaving children under 8 at home or in the car while dropping off another child. Even if a host parent gives permission to do this, it is not allowed, because it is against the law.

10 Safety Tips for Au Pairs – Staying Safe Out and About

These tips are not intended to scare you, but to make you aware of some simple things you can do to prevent being the victim of a crime.

  • When you get into an Uber or Lyft, make sure the vehicle matches the description and the driver is who the app shows.
  • When riding on metro, try to wait in well lit areas where there are other people and try to get into a train car with other people, rather than being alone.
  • Be very careful using outside ATMs at night or in unfamiliar surroundings.
  • When walking, face the oncoming traffic. It will be harder for someone to pull you into a car and abduct you. You can also see cars coming in your lane.
  • Tell someone where you’ll be and what time you’re supposed to return, or if you will be with someone you don’t know well.
  • If you are meeting someone new for the first time, meet in a public place.
  • Don’t overload yourself with packages. If you must have your hands full, visualize how you would respond if approached, how you would get your hands free, etc.
  • Don’t wear earbuds or headphones, while walking or jogging.
  • Don’t read or get distracted by your cell phone while walking or standing on the street.
  • Pay attention to what is going on around you and be aware of people near you. 

Photo: Antonio Touriño

Driving – Car Safety Kit

62922586_bd9aa19227What should you have in the trunk of your car in case of an emergency?

I’ll give you a hint- it’s not a cat. While they are cute, they are not very helpful in a crisis. Below is a list of some more helpful things to keep in the car.

Recommended items to have in the car in case of emergency

  • Cell phone car charger
  • Jumper Cables (be sure you know how to use them)
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Flares & Reflective triangles
  • Bag of sand or kitty litter (to help if stuck in ice, snow)
  • Small shovel, snow brush and ice scraper
  • Extra windshield solvent
  • Blankets and extra clothing
  • Nonperishable food items and water (e.g.. snack bars)
  • List of emergency telephone numbers on a card in the glove compartment
  • Auto club card (AAA or roadside assistance)

Here is another post with a list of what to keep in the car glove box.

It is always a good idea to keep the gas tank at least half full at all times, especially in the winter.

Photo: Bart Everson

Halloween Health and Safety Tips

Going trick-or-treating? Check out these tips from the CDC website.  

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 eExamine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them. Limit the amount of treats you eat.

halloween

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.

Fire Prevention Tips

Click here to read more fire safety tips on the FEMA website

October 9-15 is Fire Prevention Week in the USA.

Here are some Fire Safety Tips from http://www.usfa.fema.gov/:

Control Kids’ Access to Fire

  • Keep all matches and lighters out of the hands of children. If possible, keep these sources of fire in locked drawers. Consider buying only “child-proof” lighters—but be aware that no product is completely child-proof.
  • Children as young as two years old can strike matches and start fires.
  • Never leave children unattended near operating stoves or burning candles, even for a short time.
  • Teach children not to pick up matches or lighters they may find. Instead, they should tell an adult immediately.

Fire Safety at Home

  • Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home, especially near sleeping areas.
  • Smoke alarms should be kept clean of dust by regularly vacuuming over and around them.
  • Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. And replace the entire unit after ten years of service, or as the manufacturer recommends.
  • Families should plan and practice two escape routes from each room of their home.

Photo: Tony Alter

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 other lots of new au pairs who are feeling the same way you are right now. Set a goal to reach out to a few 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.

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 Tips

Jens Rost backpacks

Kids in our cluster will be returning to school soon. This will mean changes to the au pair schedule and possibly to the duties.  It is very important to communicate these changes to avoid problems.

I suggest you discuss the following (if applicable):

  • 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)
  • How to tell if school has been cancelled or delayed for bad weather
  • Add the au pair to your list of people allowed to pick up the kids from school
  • What to pack for lunch
  • The routine after school (do they have free time before starting homework, what to give for snack, any chores, where do they put their backpacks & lunchboxes)
  • How to communicate about what’s going on at school. (Kids in Care Log Books are available upon request from APIA)

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

If the au pair will be the one going through the children’s back pack and helping with homework, I suggest you designate an area for putting things that need to be read and/or signed by parents.

Reminder: It is illegal in the State of Maryland for a child under the age of 8 to be left alone in the home or car.  Please make sure that your drop off routine does not include leaving children under 8 at home or in the car while dropping off another child.  Even if a host parent gives permission to do this, it is not allowed, because it is against the law.

Photo: Jens Rost (Flickr)