Tag Archives: tips

Back to School Tips

back-to-school1Most of the school aged kids in our cluster are either back in school or will be returning 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)

At our August Coffee Meeting, I gave out Back to School Kits which included 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.

Halloween Health and Safety Tips

From cdc.gov

halloween cdc.govFor many people, autumn events like Halloween and Harvest Day are fun times to dress up in costumes, go trick-or-treating, attend parties, and eat yummy treats. These events are also opportunities to provide nutritious snacks, get physical activity, and focus on safety.

Below are tips to help make the festivities fun and safe for trick-or-treaters and party guests.

Going trick-or-treating?

Alphabet letter S Swords, knives, and similar 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.
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Alphabet letter H Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you. Always 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 established 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.
Alphabet letter N Never walk near lit candles or luminaries. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

Fire Safety Week 10/9

Click here to read more Fire Safety Tips on PBS Kids

Click here to read more Fire Safety Tips on PBS Kids

Here are some fire safety tips from PBSKids.org. Go over these fire safety tips with your children.

Be Smart

  1. Don’t touch matches. Stay away from lighters and candles, too.
  2. Don’t touch radiators or heaters. Ask a grown-up to turn a heater on or off for you. Don’t stand too close to a fireplace or wood stove, either.
  3. Don’t play with electrical cords. And don’t stick anything into an electrical socket.
  4. Don’t play around in the kitchen. If you want to cook something, be sure to check with a grown-up first.
  5. Don’t put anything over a lamp. Things thrown over a lamp (like blankets or clothing) could catch fire.

September is Baby Safety Month

Baby Safety Month – There are many safety tips on the Au Pair in America website.

Baby by Paul Sapiano

In honor of Baby Safety Month, here are some more specific baby tips:

  • Check condition and sturdiness of toys. Discard any with sharp edges or are broken or falling apart.
  • Check children’s clothing for loose buttons and strings.
  • Is baby’s pacifier still in good condition? If not, toss it. Never use strings to attach the pacifier to baby’s clothes or crib.
  • Where do you set baby’s carrier when she’s in it? Not on the counter, or any high surface. Babies can wiggle and tip themselves over.
  • Walkers can be dangerous (especially old ones that don’t meet today’s safety standards), they allow baby to move very quickly and reach things they normally can’t. Never use around stairs.
  • Stroller check. If your stroller is collapsible, be sure latches are secure before putting baby in. Always check that your child’s arms are out of the way when reversing handle directions so they won’t get pinched. Be sure to use that safety strap. Don’t hang overloaded or heavy bags on the handle of the stroller; this may cause it to tip over.
  • Can you name the 12 most common choking foods for kids under five? Popcorn, hot dogs, chunks of meat, raisins, ice cubes, chunky peanut butter, nuts of any kind, hard candy, grapes, raw carrots, potato chips and corn chips. Don’t leave toddlers alone while eating; if they begin to choke you need to be nearby to assist.
  • Get a piggy bank: this is a great place to put coins so they don’t end up on the floor, in the couch cushions and then baby’s mouth.
  • Never leave your child unattended in the bathtub. If the phone rings, let the answering machine or voice mail pick up.

Photo by Paul Sapiano

New Year's Eve Safety Tips

I hope you all have a wonderful time celebrating the New Year.  I just wanted to remind you to please make good safe decisions.

Don’t drink and drive.

  • Take public transportation -metro, bus or a cab. Metro and buses will run until 2 am on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
  • One friend can be the designated driver (and not drink alcohol, so she can drive everyone home safely.)
  • Sober Ride Home – Take this number with you in case you find yourself without a safe ride home tonight. 800-200-TAXI
A local nonprofit group is offering New Year’s Eve revelers in the Washington region a free ride home. The Washington Regional Alcohol Program says its annual SoberRide program begins at 10 p.m. Thursday and ends at 6 a.m. Friday, with taxi cab companies providing free service to those age 21 or older.

That goes for residents in the District of Columbia and the counties of Montgomery, Prince George’s, Arlington, Fairfax, eastern Loudoun and Prince William.
The group, which includes law enforcement and business officials, says the aim is to keep would-be drunken drivers off the roadways.

The offer is good for fares up to $50. The service is available through the SoberRide phone number: 800-200-TAXI.

Don’t Drink Alcohol if You are Under 21 – It is against the law and if you are caught, you will have to purchase your own ticket and return home.

If You are Over 21, Drink Alcohol Wisely – Know your limits and don’t drink to the point of becoming ill.

Keep Your Eyes on Your Drinks – Don’t let someone you don’t know get a drink from the bar for you.  When you order a drink take it straight from the bartender and keep it with you.  If you leave your glass sitting where you can’t see it, someone can put a drug in your drink.  If you

Protecting Your Personal Health & Safety – It is safest to be together with friends.  Be careful not to put yourself in dangerous situations with people you don’t know.  Consider carefully what information you give to people you have just met.

Interviewing Suggestions – What Info to Give When?

When interviewing a prospective au pair, some families give a lot of information on themselves and their children right up front.  If you do that, you may be answering some of the au pair’s questions she may have about your family.  But, you will never know, because she will not ask you then.  The type of questions an au pair asks, will help you judge her interest in your family and motivation for becoming an au pair.  So, it might be a better idea to just give a brief intro like this: “Hi, I’m Mary Smith from Silver Spring, Maryland.  My husband and I have two children, a girl who is 6 years and a boy who is 10 years.”  Then, go into your interview questions.  Once you have all your questions completed, let her ask any questions she may have.

Once you have completed that phase of interviewing, if it seems like you are both still interested and possibly a good fit, you want to provide a very clear picture of what being your au pair will involve and what living in your home will be like.

This could include (conversations and emails) about:

  • Anticipated schedule and list of duties
  • Child care and discipline (ask for responses to possible scenarios)
  • House rules  – car use, curfew, smoking, guests, computer and phone use
  • If driving is required, have serious discussions about the frequency and type of driving experience she has (what vehicles, which side of the road, city or country and any accidents)
  • Lifestyle issues (physical active or sedentary, interests, values)

This may seem like a lot to discuss, but being thorough up front can prevent problems down the road like au pair and host parents having different expectations and perceptions.

Personal Safety – General Safety Tips

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.

  • Listen to and act on your intuition. It’s better to be safe and risk a little embarrassment, than stay in an uncomfortable situation that may be unsafe.
  • If you are in danger or being attacked and want to get help, yell “Call 911!” or give specific directions to onlookers; for example: “You! Get the police!” or “Walk me to the store on the corner, I’m being followed.”
  • Have your keys ready when approaching your car or building.
  • Vary your routine: drive or walk different routes every day. If you suspect that someone is following you, by foot or in a car, don’t go home (or they will know where you live). Go to a trusted neighbor or to a public place to call police, or go directly to the police station.
  • Do not label keys with your name or any identification.
  • Don’t talk about your social life or vacation plans where strangers can overhear you.
  • Carry your cell phone with you at all times.

Personal Safety – Date Rape Drugs

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.

It is important that you are aware that people have been known to put drugs into women’s drinks at bars and at parties. Please read these tips, to avoid becoming a victim.

  • Use the buddy system. Do not leave your friends.
  • Get your own drink.
  • Watch your drink being poured and do not leave it unattended.
  • Don’t drink from a large open container, like a punch bowl.
  • Don’t drink anything that has an unusual taste, especially a salty taste.
  • Don’t share drinks.
  • Don’t leave a party with someone you just met.
  • Warn others about high-risk situations.

Guests – Think Carefully Before Asking…

It is important to think carefully before asking your host parents to allow you to invite guests, especially friends of family who may come stay for a week or more.

There are many host families who would not feel comfortable with allowing that and will say no. If they say no, you need to do your best to accept that and not pout or have a bad attitude about it.  Remember, it is their home and when they invited you to join them, they were not planning on turning it into a youth hostel.

There are others who might not feel comfortable, but they want to be kind, so they say yes. In those situations, it can hurt your relationship, because they may resent being put in that position.  You may get to have your friend come stay with you, but if it hurts your relationship with your host family and leads to a rematch, is that worth it?

There are a small number of families that are happy to allow you to welcome guests throughout the year and have no problem with it. That is a very small number and if your host family is one of them, show them how much you appreciate it their hospitality.

Also, consider how you plan to account for your time during the visit? Will you use your vacation time or do you plan to work and just visit on your off hours?  If you plan to work, keep in mind that during work hours childcare should remain your number one focus.  I have seen situations where au pairs are too excited about their guest to do their job as well as they normally would.  In those cases, the family is giving up a lot.  They are allowing guests to stay in their home and accepting a lower level of work performance during the visit.  Be aware of that and do your best to carry out your duties and show your host parents that you appreciate their actions.

If you are working during the visit, one way you can avoid letting your work slide, is to encourage your guests to go out and do things while you are working.  Since you are familiar with the area you have been living in, you can act as a tour guide.  Give them information on places that you have visited with other au pairs and maybe gone for cluster meetings.  Since you have already seen these places, you will not be missing out, if they go there while you are working.  Then, you are free to visit new places with them in your off hours.

Remember – honest communication, flexibility, gratitude and consideration will make all the difference when dealing with your host parents on inviting guests.

Personal Safety – On the Street

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.

  • Pay attention to what is going on around you and be aware of people near you.
  • Don’t hitchhike (means getting a ride with strangers.)
  • 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.
  • 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 music headphones while walking or jogging.
  • Don’t read while walking or standing on the street.
  • If you wear a purse with a shoulder strap, be prepared to let it go if snatched. Otherwise you may be hurt if the mugger knocks you down and drags you while fleeing with your purse.