Category Archives: Au Pair Cluster Meetings

Privacy & Personal Information Online

We live in a time of constant sharing through social media. We often share pictures, plans of somewhere we are going or rants about problems, without thinking much about who will see it and what could be the consequences.

Before clicking “post”, stop to think:

  • Am I violating someone’s privacy?
  • Am I sharing personal info. that could put me in danger?
  • Would I want my current or a future employer to see this?

This will help protect your privacy and safety as well as that of your host family. It is important to respect your host family’s privacy and not share personal details and information.  This applies to all kinds of situations, including: personal conversations, email and social websites.

For your own safety, it is a good idea to be careful what personal information you share about yourself as well. You should not give out information like your telephone number and address to people you don’t know. Safer to meet a new friend in a public place, than to give them your address before knowing them.

Once you post something on the internet (even if you later delete it), it can show up elsewhere.  Unless you have specific permission from your host family, you should never post pictures of them, their children or their home on the internet.

If you have a blog or website where you post in your native language, remember there is translation software. So, even if you say it in your native language, be sure it is not something that might be misinterpreted in translation or something you will regret saying.

10 Tips for Summer Safety

  1. Remember to bring along drinks, especially water. Try to get children to drink water every 20 minutes, when they are outside in hot weather.
  2. Pay attention to surfaces that can be hot against children’s skin, such as metal slides and other playground equipment in the sun.
  3. Safety around water is particularly important. A child can drown in just a few inches of water. Whenever you are near water you must never leave a child alone – if the phone rings, take them with you or let it ring! Always stay within arm’s reach when the children are in or near water.
  4. Young babies should be kept out of direct sunlight. Keep the baby in the shade or under a tree, umbrella or stroller canopy.
  5. Dress babies in lightweight clothing and use brimmed hats.
  6. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, even if it appears overcast (cloudy).
  7. Try to keep children out of the sun in the middle of the day when the sun is strongest.
  8. Learn what poison ivy looks like and keep children out of it. A good rule to teach the children is “leaves of three, let it be.”
  9. Use insect repellent spray to keep away mosquitos and ticks. Ask your host parents before applying.
  10. Check for ticks when you bring children in from playing outside, especially if you’ve been in tall grass or the woods.

Photo: Scott97006 (Flickr)

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Daylight Saving Time Begins March 11

What is Daylight Saving Time?

During Daylight Saving Time, clocks are turned forward one hour, effectively moving an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. Today, approximately 70 countries worldwide utilize Daylight Saving Time, in at least some portion of the country. The U.S. started observing it in 1918, so it celebrates it’s 100th birthday, this year.

In March, we move the clock forward one hour, losing an hour of sleep. In November, we move the clock back one hour, regaining that extra hour of sleep.

An easy way to remember it is: Spring forward, Fall back.

Before you go to bed on March 10, be sure to set the clocks forward one hour!

Photo: Mark Lee

Focus on Play: New Ideas for Some Classic Toys

It is good to offer kids a balance of independent play time and play where you are actively engaging with them. You can make toys they may be bored with, feel new and exciting, by suggesting different ways to play with them. Try some of the ideas below as a starting point.

Play Food/Dishes

  • Teach your host children how to say the names of some of the food and dishes in your language.
  • Using English and/or your language play games where you are ordering food like in a restaurant. Take turns with who will be the waiter and who is the customer.
  • Come up with silly food combinations.  For example: Who wants pickles on their slice of cake?
  • Play a guessing game where the children have to figure out what food you are talking about.  For example: I grow under the ground in the dirt.  People eat me fried, mashed and baked.  What am I? (a potato)
  • Play a game with setting the table using your language to ask for the different items (plate, spoon, etc.)
  • Ask the children to divide the foods up into the different food groups (vegetables, meat, dairy, etc.)

Lego Blocks and Other Building Toys

  • Divide up all of the blocks between the people playing, by taking turns for each person to select block by block.
  • Suggest specific things to build (robots, houses, mountains etc.) and build together.
  • Challenge everyone to use all of their blocks.
  • Sort the blocks by color or shape and make patterns with them (red, blue, red, blue or square, triangle, rectangle.)  You can create a pattern and ask the child to fill in what comes next to continue the pattern.
  • Make the tallest block tower you can and let them knock it down (over and over again, if like most kids, they like destroying things.)

Mr. Potato Head

  • Teach your host children the names of the different parts in your language and play a game asking them to put on the body parts by name.
  • Play Hide and Seek with Mr. Potato Head. Have the children cover their eyes and count, while you hide Mr. Potato Head, then they go looking for him. Switch things up by letting them hide Mr. Potato Head and then you are the one to locate him.
  • Play the same game above, but using Simon Says.  Simon Says is a game where the leader gives commands by saying “Simon says” first. For example, “Simon says, put on the nose.”  The players are only to follow the commands when the leader says “Simon says.”  If the leader doesn’t say “Simon says” first and just says, “put on the nose,”  and the player follows the command, they are out of the game.  Repeat the game multiple times, so all kids get a turn to be the leader at least once.

Photos:  Lisa Maxwell (top) & Tom Smalls (bottom)

Avoiding Homesickness this Holiday Season

Homesickness can be a problem during the holidays, even if it hasn’t been at any other time of the year. Au pairs often miss their friends and family, familiar places and their own traditions and customs. The holiday activities in the United States seem, and may actually be, different just at a time when an au pair would welcome something familiar. 

It is common for au pairs’ emotions to be close to the surface during the holidays. Her highs are higher, her lows are lower. The enormity of what she has done–actually living in another country (which is an amazing thing when you think about it!)–hits her and throws her into a self-protective mode.

Host parents can help her through this unfamiliar territory by talking to her about what your specific family activities will be (gifts, meals, visitors, religious services, in-home traditions, or none of these, as the case may be.) In the spirit of cultural exchange, ask her if she has any favorite holiday traditions or foods that you might be able to incorporate into your family’s celebration of the season. Let her know what you will be doing, when you will be doing it, and what she can expect. Talk to her about what has to be accomplished and get her involved and interested. Don’t expect her to just “know” what needs to be done. Give her some clear, agreed upon assignments. Make her feel a part of things. And, let her know her contribution is needed and appreciated.

Photo: Sheila Sund (Flickr)

5 Thanksgiving Tips for Au Pairs & Host Parents

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November each year. Even though a few other countries also celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s still considered a uniquely American holiday, one that the au pairs look forward to experiencing. You can learn more about it here.

I really enjoyed Thanksgiving with my host family. It was as I imagined! So much food to try. Everyone got dressed up and shared what they were thankful for. It was so warm and special. The next day we began to prepare for Christmas. It was magical.” Selina from Germany

Below you will find some tips to help you have a terrific Thanksgiving experience.

 

Host Parents

1.  Please plan to include your au pair in your Thanksgiving celebration, if at all possible. Thanksgiving with an au pair offers an opportunity to consider the relevance of the history and meaning of Thanksgiving as you compare the hospitality offered by the Native Americans to the recently arrived Pilgrims and the hospitality you offer your au pair.

2.  If you are traveling or will not be able to invite your au pair to join you for Thanksgiving, give her plenty of notice and help her make alternate plans. You don’t want to leave your au pair alone over the holiday.

Au Pairs

3.  If you are invited to attend dinner, please let your family know within 5 days of the invitation, whether you are planning to attend. It is considered rude in America to accept the invitation for dinner and then change your mind later in the month. Please be thoughtful.

4.  Make sure to discuss time off during this holiday weekend. Many host families work the Friday after Thanksgiving so do not assume you have this day off or the entire weekend. Talk to your host family, BEFORE you make any plans.

5.  If your host family is unable to include you in their Thanksgiving plans, please let me know if you have trouble making other plans. You may be able to join a friend and their host family for the holiday dinner.

Bonus Tip for the Kids

If you are looking for a fun recipe to make with your au pair, check out these turkey cupcakes. Find more fun activities and recipes on the Au Pair in America Fall Holidays pinboard.

Photo: Tim Sackton (Flickr)

Hints for Success – Overcoming Homesickness

Almost everyone experiences homesickness and culture shock to some degree, when they come to live in a completely new environment. So much is different and it takes time to adjust.

It is normal to miss your own family, at home. Try to remember that they support you and want you to make the most of this experience. They will enjoy learning more about the U.S., through your eyes, as you share your adventures with them.

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 the vast majority of them get through it, stay and have a successful year (some even extend for a second year!) 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)

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Preventing Dehydration in Hot Weather

Dehydration means that the body lacks the necessary amount of fluid. Infants and small children are more likely to become dehydrated than older children or adults, because they can lose relatively more fluid quickly.

Here are some steps to take to make sure children remain hydrated in the summer months:

  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of water. On hot days, children should drink significantly more water than usual, as they are losing more due to the heat.
  • Do not wait until your child is thirsty to give him water. By the time they feel thirsty, they are already becoming dehydrated.
  • If your child is resistant to drinking enough water, have other liquids on hand for your child to drink throughout the day.
  • Be alert to changes in behavior. A child may act confused or more irritable when they are becoming dehydrated/overheated. Get them into cooler temperatures and drinking more fluids.
  • Dress your child in lightweight clothing in the summer months, particularly if she’ll be playing outdoors in warm weather. You may also consider clothes that are well ventilated as they do not trap heat close to the body.
  • When there are heat and/or air quality advisories because the weather is dangerously hot, you should avoid taking the children outdoors. Check with your host parents for further guidance on this topic.

Remember to follow these tips for yourself too, so you stay well hydrated.

Photo: Darwin Bell (Flickr)

Holiday & Vacation Reminders

“Rest and be thankful.” – William Wordsworth

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

Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of summer travel season. 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.
  • Au pairs should not make plans for holidays without checking with your host family first.

Vacations

  • Au pairs earns 2 weeks of paid vacation during the course of her year.
  • Vacation time should be mutually agreed upon.
  • All vacation should be preplanned (at least 4 weeks in advance.)
  • All au pair’s friends and/or family visits/vacations should be pre-approved prior to purchasing tickets.
  • If an au pair travels with her host family, it should be discussed in advance whether this is the au pair’s vacation or if she is working.
  • If an au pair travels with the host family to work, the host family is required to pay for her transportation, lodging and meals.

Important: If an au pair is traveling outside of the U.S., she must have her DS2019 signed (travel validation) PRIOR to her departure from the US. More information about this may be found here on the Au Pair in America website.

Photo: torbakhopper (Flickr)

Helping Young Children Learn Language

Being an au pair is an important role in a child’s life. When you are caring for a young child up to 45 hours per week, there are lots of opportunities to help them learn language. Many host parents are eager for their children to be exposed to foreign language. If this is true of your host parents, you can try the suggestions below, in both English and your native language.

Below are a few tips to start with, for more ideas, check out Ready at Five.

  • Read – Read to them daily, point out pictures and ask questions. Even if they can’t answer the questions, this is still modeling conversation.
  • Talk – Point out objects around them, names of their body parts, explain what you are doing and places you are going. Long before babies can speak, they benefit greatly from being spoken to.
  • Sing – You can sing childhood classics or make up your own silly songs. If you are looking for song ideas, HERE is a great website with lists of songs, lyrics and links to YouTube videos* of the songs.  Children’s music is also available at the public library and even on iTunes.
  • Words – As children move from toddlers to preschoolers begin to point out written language.
  • Writing – Toddlers and preschoolers can begin to learn pre-writing skills by drawing with crayons or doing finger paints.

*The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for babies under 18 months of age. For children 18 months to 5 years they recommend no more than 1 hour of high quality content. You can play the songs on youtube for the audio and not necessarily show the screen to the child.

Photo: Quinn Dombrowski (Flickr)