Thanksgiving is a public holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November every year in the United States. It started as a harvest festival and has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789. The most important part of Thanksgiving for American families is to spend family time together.
“My favorite holiday was Thanksgiving. Firstly, it was my first holiday with the whole family in America. Secondly, the whole family came together. All aunts and uncles and their kids came to grandma’s. We played football with all of them, including grandma and grandpa. It was the first time I played it and it was so much fun for all. We had a great dinner with all the typical things you can imagine … it was deeeelicious! It was so great to be with such a big family and I really enjoyed that day. I will remember it my whole life, I hope.” – Swantje from Germany
Here are a few tips to help you have a terrific Thanksgiving experience.
Please plan to include your au pair in your Thanksgiving celebration, if at all possible. 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.
If you are invited to attend dinner, please let your family know within 5 days of the invitation, whether you are planning to attend, so they may make plans. If your host family is unable to include you in their Thanksgiving plans, please let me know if you have trouble making other plans, so I can assist.
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.
Bonus Tip for the Kids
If you are looking for a fun recipe to make with your au pair, check out these turkey cookies. Find more fun activities and recipes on the Au Pair in America Fall Holidays pinboard.
Being knowledgeable in basic first aid and CPR is important for au pairs (and anyone else caring for children). Au Pair in America’s commitment to infant/child safety begins before au pairs arrive to the U.S., with pre-arrival training and continue throughout the au pair year.
#1 Training At Orientation
Our orientation includes seminars by American Red Cross instructors who provide hands-on demonstrations in infant/child CPR and safety. Printed materials are provided that reinforce the safety information and can be used to review from time to time.
#2 Enroll in a Red Cross Certification Class
After settling into their host community, all au pairs are encouraged to complete an Infant/Child CPR and First Aid certification program. Au Pair in America will pay for this training through the American Red Cross.
Classes are available through the Red Cross. Au Pair in America will pay for the cost of a class providing an au pair has at least six months left on her visa and is taking one of several approved childcare/child safety-related classes, such as Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED. Au pairs should check with their community counselor and host family before signing up. Au Pair in America will register the au pair directly.
To locate a class, visit www.redcross.org/takeaclass. For step-by-step instructions on how to locate a class and have Au Pair in America complete enrollment, click here.
#3 Stay Current on Safety Information
The Official American Red Cross First Aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. Available for iPhone and Android devices, this app gives you instant access to the information you need to know to handle the most common first aid emergencies. With videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice, it’s never been easier to know first aid. Download the app for free from the American Red Cross website or in your app store.
Photos: Robin Leon
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.
- Remember to bring along drinks, especially water. Try to get children to drink water every 20 minutes, when they are outside in hot weather.
- Pay attention to surfaces that can be hot against children’s skin, such as metal slides and other playground equipment in the sun.
- 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.
- Young babies should be kept out of direct sunlight. Keep the baby in the shade or under a tree, umbrella or stroller canopy.
- Dress babies in lightweight clothing and use brimmed hats.
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, even if it appears overcast (cloudy).
- Try to keep children out of the sun in the middle of the day when the sun is strongest.
- 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.”
- Use insect repellent spray to keep away mosquitos and ticks. Ask your host parents before applying.
- 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)
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.
- 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)
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)
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.
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.
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)
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)
“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.
- 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.
- 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)