Uncategorized

Cultural Journey – Jamaica visit

jamaica_stream_water_221749Last month I had the amazing opportunity to visit our offices in the country of Jamaica. This was the first time that I had been to Jamaica, so I took everything in as I arrived. After a layover in Miami, I was on my way and landed on the ground in pitch black. I headed through immigration, customs and then waiting for my ride to my hotel, I confirmed with our offices our meeting for the next day. I was so excited to see the island and to meet with all of our prospective au pairs at the office in Mandeville.

The next morning, I had a driver pick me up to drive me from Montego Bay to Mandeville. The drive was beautiful and I feel as though I was able to see the real Jamaica as I rode in the passenger seat (on the left side of the car) through the windy, hilly roads which were not always paved. Jamaica is very tropical and when the big storms surge through, they raise havoc on the road, creating very large potholes. As the country is full of poverty, you often see individuals filling in the holes in the road in hopes of making some extra money for doing the hard labor. This was my first introduction into how hard working the Jamaican jamaicapeople are and how much pride they have for their country and culture. The drive was beautiful and I couldn’t help but marvel at everything I saw. So many fruit and vegetable stands on the side of the road, people walking to school with their kids, dogs and sheep running around and people just enjoying their lives. I had all of the various trees pointed out to me and also the beautiful birds. We were in a hurry to get to the meeting and it took over two hours to actually arrive to the center of the island for the meetings.

When I arrived at the offices of our partner, I was introduced to all of the staff and had a tour of the facilities. The most impressive feature being the classroom where they offer various development courses for all of the individuals. The office helps the residents, from 18 to 80, in professional development in order to assist them in finding employment. They have a partnership with the Katrinauniversity, as well as the government, to provide these options to encourage all to continue to improve themselves. Every single person I encountered was courteous and kind, even given the fact that they are not used to seeing someone like me (a tall, very American woman) walking around their town.

Our wonderful partner meets with all prospective au pair candidates one on one and advises them on their opportunities, how to improve their background to make them a better candidate and screening them thoroughly for accuracy in their application. All applicants are advised on what it means to be an au pair in the USA, how to work with a host family and also go through a complete First Aid/CPR training program before they leave. Now, after discussions with the offices, they will even be educating the drivers on driving in the USA to better prepare them for what it is like to drive in our country once matched with a family.

After seeing the offices, meeting the crew and seeing how the operations works, the next thing on the itinerary was to meet some of the applicants, both current and prospective, in the classroom in order to talk more about the program, what to expect, what American families are looking for and what our agency represents. All I can say about this is WOW! I was so impressed with each and every one of the applicants. They were kind and courteous and had wonderful questions for me about the program. I actually made some notes for girls that I thought would be fabulous applicants for my own family in a few months, if they are still available! The biggest questions seemed to be what the families were like, what types of things they could do with the kids, how they could be classthe best au pair, etc. Now, normally when I meet a group of prospective au pairs, the questions are “where does the family live”, “how much time will I get off”, in addition to the normal questions about the families, but I didn’t get these questions at all from this wonderful group of ladies! They really were most concerned with having the opportunity to come to the USA, take care of children and experience the life. The energy that they gave off with their excitement and smiles was contagious! I walked away from the meeting truly feeling positive that we decided to start offering candidates from Jamaica.

We finalized the meeting and then I was treated to a delicious lunch with the staff of the office who could break away from helping their candidates and chatted more about how we could continue to improve. The staff of the Mandeville office is really interested in continuing to build the program, support the candidates and make sure that they are well prepared to offer the best to our host families. Again, making me more sure that we made a great choice by chosing Jamaica as one of our source countries for applicants.

20131003_144703Well, lunch was finished and a quick pop-in the offices to say good-bye to the crew and I was back in the car for my long journey back to Montego Bay. Again, I cannot even express in words how magnificent this drive was for me. I love to travel and getting to see the country from the road was a real treat. I did not have the opportunity for any photos, as the driver was keeping time, so no side trips or pulling over to the side of the road! Back at the hotel and I couldn’t stop thinking about everyone I met and saw on my one-day trip to Mandeville and back. I feel so fortunate that I consistently get to visit new places and meet the wonderful participants of our program and partner offices and this was a trip that I would always remember. I spent the next day on the beautiful beach, snorkeling and really getting to know some of the locals who worked at and around the hotel. I loved learning more about the cultural and the people of Jamaica, what a determined and hardworking nation of people!

This posting was written by Katrina Vanderhulst, Director of International Programs for Au Pair International.

API has some amazing applicants from Jamaica currently. Please take a moment to review their profiles and consider interviewing a candidate to be your next au pair so that you can also share in the learning of the Jamaican culture, teach them about American culture AND have a reason to visit Jamaica after their program year is complete! Ya mon!

Bonus: Match with an au pair from Jamaica by the end of 2013 and save an additional $100 off of your program fees!

StaceyAnnHougarth2

Stacey-Ann H.

“I am 24, have 7300 childcare hours, and love to make people smile!”

SammiJoeHarrow1

Sammijoe H.

“I have nearly 15,000 childcare hours and know First Aid!”

AvaGayeGames1

Ava-Gaye J.

“I have 3500 childcare hours and want to be a nurse!”

CharnelleWolliston2Charnelle W.

“I am a teacher with 60,000 childcare hours and First Aid certifications!”

ShanekeRicketts2Shaneke R.

“I have 6000 childcare hours and plan to become a Pastor!”

Or check out our other au pairs from Jamaica on our website.

Uncategorized

Simple Tips For Dealing With A Tantrum

Almost every parent has had to deal with a tantrum at some time or another. Although not all children throw tantrums, many use such episodes to exhibit anger and frustration occasionally. While these episodes generally do not have lasting physical or emotional effects, they can be used by children to manipulate other people and to draw attention to themselves when dealt with improperly.

Checklist for tantrum management

Here are some of the most important things to remember when dealing with a tantrum:

  • Do not use the tantrum as an opportunity to punish your child
  • Do not offer a reward in order to control the tantrum
  • Maintain your calm and try to ignore the tantrum
  • Make sure your child is safe
  • Try to isolate your child if possible.
  • Do not let other people’s reactions affect your actions

Maintaining control

As a parent and an adult, it is your responsibility to stay in control all throughout the tantrum. By punishing your child, giving in to his demands, or worse, losing control yourself, you will not only prolong the episode but almost certainly ensure its reoccurrence. If you instead strive to maintain control over the situation, you will be sending a clear message that this type of behavior is unacceptable.

Dealing with tantrums at home

It is generally easier and safer to deal with a tantrum at home, since your child is in what is essentially a controlled environment. When faced with a tantrum at home, the first thing you should do is to carry your child calmly where he can be alone safely. You should then leave your child by himself and return only when he has calmed down.

Of course, this is easier said than done, but it is absolutely necessary in order to drive home the point that tantrums will not be tolerated. If you have to stay within sight of your child for safety reasons, do not respond to the tantrum at all, and only initiate communication when he has calmed down.

Dealing with tantrums in public

Dealing with tantrums in public is a lot more challenging, although maintaining control is still your primary concern (after ensuring your child’s safety, of course). If possible, you should calmly lead or carry your child to a less busy place, or even to your car. The same principle will then apply as when dealing with a tantrum at home: leave your child alone until he has managed to calm down.

Discussing the tantrum with your child

Once your child has managed to calm down, it is important to discuss the episode as soon as possible. Instead of focusing on the issue that caused the tantrum, it would be best to deal with the behavior itself. It might also be helpful to present alternatives to throwing a tantrum; you might be surprised to find how readily your child will consider them when presented with options.

Dealing with tantrums is never easy, although there are ways to do so without causing any more harm to your child. What methods have you found most effective in dealing with tantrums?

Guest Post by Kole for ivf Burlington isis

Host Family Questions

HF Q’s – Can I take my au pair on vacations with me?

tropical-84537_640 (1)Absolutely!  Who hasn’t been on vacation and wished that there was someone who could take the kids for a few hours?  Many families bring their au pairs along with them on vacation and have a fabulous time.  When preparing to go on vacation, please keep the following things in mind.

1) If you are requiring your au pair to accompany you need to provide for her expenses.

2) You will need to give your au pair a schedule of on and off-duty time so she can plan her free time.

3) You still need to remain within the regulations, meaning no more than 10 on-duty hours per day and 45 hours per week.

4) During vacation, you can have your au pair sleep in the same room as your children, but most au pairs are uncomfortable sleeping in the same room as the host parents.

5) Be sure to make your au pair aware of any additional hazards that she or your children might not be aware of.

6) If you are traveling outside the US, your au pair will need to get a travel verification signed by Au Pair International and she might also need a visa for the country you are visiting.

 

Do you have more vacation questions?  Feel free to ask them here or any other questions about the Au Pair Program or Au Pair International.

Learning is Fun

5 DIY Projects to Keep Your Kids Entertained

With summer vacation just around the corner, the kids will be at home–and inevitably, you’ll hear them say “I’m bored”. You’ll need some ideas to keep them happy and entertained, even on hot or rainy days. Many kids will readily get up and go outdoors if they get to make something; below are some easy and affordable projects for kids of all ages, to be done rain or shine.

DIY Lava Lamp

Flava

For this project you’ll need:

Empty water or soda bottles
Vegetable oil
Food colouring
Alka-Seltzer

Fill the bottles a little over half-full of oil, filling the remaining space with water. Leave roughly 1″ at the top. Add ten drops of any color food coloring. Break each Alka-Seltzer tablet into four pieces, and drop them into the bottles one at a time. Wait for each piece to stop bubbling before dropping the next one in, or the solution will become cloudy.

Soda Bottle Fireflies

You’ll need:

Green soda bottles, cleaned and with labels removed
Glow sticks in various colors
Pipe cleaners (for legs and antennae)
Beads or googly eyes
Cardboard or construction paper for wings
Scissors
Glue
Black paint or marker pen
Tape

This craft is ideal for dusk and after-dark play. Transform a green soda bottle into a firefly with a simple glow stick (they’re readily available at discount and dollar stores). Simply decorate the bottles with eyes and wings (don’t forget to supervise children when cutting out the wings), pop the glowstick inside the bottle, do it up and place around the house or garden. You can save the ‘fireflies’ year after year, simply adding a fresh glow stick with each use.

DIY Sidewalk Paint

If we’d had this when we were kids, our parents would have had a VERY colorful driveway indeed! This paint is very easy and fun to make. Mix up a paste of food coloring, cornstarch and water, and use an empty egg carton or old muffin tin as a palette. That’s it!

Decorating the Doors

This easy idea can be adapted to any holiday or time of year. Wrap your door in colorful paper, being sure to cut a hole for the doorknob and/or lock. Add stickers, use poster paint or markers, or tie a ribbon around the door to make it look like a big gift that you can’t wait to ‘open’! Alternatively, cover the door in white paper and let the kids use it as a ‘whiteboard’ – make sure that the paper is thick enough to avoid staining the door and that no sharp pens, such as biros, are used to avoid any scratches.

Homemade Edible Finger Paint

This idea is great for kids of every age; with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry, you can make edible finger paint. Finger_PaintingYou’ll need:

Sugar
Flour
Food coloring
Salt
Plastic cups (or baby food jars)

Image URL: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/39/Finger_Painting.jpg

Add two tablespoons of sugar to an empty saucepan. Mix in 1/3 cup of flour and stir in two cups of water, whisking until the mixture is smooth. Turn the stove on low and stir constantly until the mixture has thickened. Divide the mixture evenly among the plastic cups or baby food jars. Add in a couple of drops of food coloring (use slightly more for darker colors). Stir until completely blended, and allow to fully cool before use.

This post was written by the team at UK Oak Doors, proud retailers of internal oak doors.

Learning is Fun, Theme of the Week

Theme of the Week – Pirates

The Golden Age of Pirates was from 1560 to 1730 and many of the most famous pirates were based in the Caribbean.  The most notorious pirates lived around 1700 and include: Blackbeard (considered the most feared pirate), Calico Jack Rackham (who created the classic Jolly Roger flag with scull and crossbones), Henry Morgan and Bartholomew Roberts (both very successful pirates).

Fun Pirate Facts:

1. They Rarely Buried Treasure

2. Their Careers Didn’t Last Long

3. They Had Rules and Regulations

4. They Didn’t Walk the Plank

5. A Good Pirate Ship had Good Officers

6. The Pirates Didn’t Limit Themselves to the Caribbean

7. There Were Women Pirates

8. Piracy was better than the Alternatives

9. They came from all Social Classes

10. Not all Pirates were Criminals

Learn more about each of these facts at About.com.

Check out these and other books about Pirates at your local library.

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Pirate Crafts:

Pirate’s Hat

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Pirate Flag.

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Paper Plate Pirate

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Paper Plate Parrot

splate-parrot

Sunset Pirate Ship

SunsetPirates4RS6k[1]

Pirate Masks

pirate-masks

Newspaper Pirate Hat

NewspaperPirateHat16RS6k[1]

Pirate’s Hook

pirate-hook-craft

Easy Catapult 

EasyCatapult13RS6k[1]

Pirate Activities:

How to Talk Like a Pirate

Sandpit Treasure Hunt

Online Pirate Quiz

Pirate Maze

Pirate Song

Pirate Poem

Pirate Snacks:

Pirate Ship Cheese and Apples

Peter-Pan-2-780x676

Treasure Map Quesadilla 

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Pirate Sandwich

piratebento[1]

Jolly Roger Sandwich

PirateLunchW[1]

Additional Lesson Plans:

Teachers.net

WorldHistory.org

YahooVoices.com

Au Pair International puts together weekly learning crafts and activities called Theme of the Week to help au pairs and host parents with ideas about educational and fun activities to do with their kids.  Want to learn more about au pairs?  Check out au pair profiles on our website.

Au Pair Adventures

Au Pair Adventures – Race Day!

 

 

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Guest Post from Shawn S.  an au pair from South Africa who is matched with a family in New York.

On Sunday 28 April 2013 the school at which my youngest child attends, hosted a family fun run called the West Side Run. I was in attendance with both the two boys I Au Pair as well as my host dad. It had been decided around two months ago that we would be attending the fun run and that both my boys would be running in it. J. the youngest (8) would run in the 1 Mile race whilst T. the oldest (12) would run the 5 Km with me. Once we had decided to run that is when preparations for the race started. We trained on the odd occasion when we found some free time away from the boys schedules. J. was not very keen to train nor run as he found it to be boring but T. on the other hand thrived and I found him to be be very excited about running. The day of the race grew closer and the more nervous I became as I knew T. was going to put up a good challenge for me to stay with him all race long. We registered the night before the race and received our bright orange shirts and race numbers and got an early nights rest so that we would be bright and awake for the run the next morning. We woke on Sunday feeling anxious about the race not knowing how many people would be there or how competitive it would be. We arrived to many other people dressed in Bright orange shirts and ready to run. My host dad and J. had their race first. They completed their mile in a solid 15 minutes and received a medal for their efforts. Next up was T. and me. Our race started at quite a fast pace but T. and I were up to the challenge. We ran together past the first mile marker and then shortly before the second mile marker T. started to pull away from me. Luckily we were towards the front all race long and so my stumbling a little bit meant that even though T. was ahead of me we were still towards the front of the race. T. ended up finishing the race in 25 minutes with me coming in at 29 minutes. we both received a medal on arrival which felt good but what happened next was a surprise to us both. After all the runners had finished a trophy ceremony was conducted and trophies were handed out to the first, second and third place finishers per age category. Unfortunately J. and my host dad did not receive a trophy as the pace at which their 1 Mile race was run was exceptionally fast. Then it came to the handing out of the 11 to 12 age category for the 5 Km race. T. won the first place trophy. We knew he had run fast but not that he had won. He had a great big smile on his face in amazement that he had done so well. It felt great to see him achieve something like that. Then it came to the 20 to 29 age category and I too came first and received a trophy for it. I think my smile must have been bigger then T as I honestly thought I had done terribly. But overall it was a great time of bonding with both boys and experiencing their excitement towards the race was worth more then words can describe.

Many au pairs are more than just caregivers, check out Top 7 Unexpected Reasons to get an Au Pair.

Interested in getting a male au pair?  Here are some of Au Pair International’s highly qualified candidates:

Armand B.

Giorgi K.

Jaime S.

Robin

 

Candidates, Host Family Questions, The Matching Process

3 Tips for Finding the Right Au Pair

The most common question I get from prospective host families is “How will I know which au pair is right for me?”  Good question.  We have au pairs from all over the world, who speak many different languages and have many different experiences.  Some families can narrow the field because they have a certain language or nationality they want their children to learn about, but most just want a kind and compassionate person who will love their children and give them the care they need.  Here are some tips to make the search for the right au pair for your family easier.

Yada from Thailand
Yada from Thailand
Ntombezonke  from South Africa
Ntombezonke from S. Africa
Glenda from Guatemala
Glenda from Guatemala

#1 Be Honest!

The first mistake many potential host parents make is trying to “sell” their family to the au pair candidates.  They want the au pair to like them so they gloss over the less-than-perfect stuff.  These families might get their first choice, but that doesn’t mean that they will get the right au pair for their family.

Be upfront and honest about what your family is like and what your needs are.  If you have a strict no TV rule, make sure to tell the candidates that.  If you have a child that’s a hitter, let the au pair know.  If you are conservative about dress and appearance, mention what standards you would like observed in your home.  If you have special diets or allergies, again, let the au pair know.  Now, I’m not saying the first thing you do is send an email stating all the negative things about your family, but you should carefully consider what makes your family unique (both good and bad) and during the matching process make sure your au pair has an accurate picture of your family.

This goes for the area you live, too.  Some au pairs want to live in a big city; others are good with a quiet suburb.  We have even had some au pairs request a rural setting.  If you live 10 miles from the closest grocery store and the next big city is 20 miles beyond that, you need to let your potential au pairs know this.  On the flip side, if you live in an area where traffic is crazy and there are people everywhere, you should probably mention that, too.

Yuri from South Korea
Yuri from South Korea
Jelena from Serbia
Jelena from Serbia
Renuka from Nepal
Renuka from Nepal

#2 Interview, Interview, Interview

So many families see only a couple files or videos of au pairs, fall in love with one of them, have one interview and ask them to be their au pair.  You might get lucky and have matched with the perfect au pair for you, but chances are both you and your au pair are going to be surprised when you actually start living together.  The better plan: interview many, interview often, and interview all.

Interview many – Meaning start off with a good amount of potential candidates and send an introductory email to them.  I would say 5 to 8 au pairs.  Even if you think their file is light on content, give them a chance to tell you about themselves.  Then narrow it down to about half that you want to Skype with (if you are not familiar with Skype, I would recommend getting comfortable with it.  This is how the vast majority of au pairs communicate with potential host families).  Then narrow it down again to 2 or 3 that are your favorites.

Interview often – Most of the time one video chat or phone call is not going to cut it.  You need to send emails back and forth and plan on Skyping several times.  This is the time to be honest about your family and expectations.  Evaluate your needs and make sure you ask questions to see if he or she will meet those needs.  If you need a driver, make sure to ask lots of questions about their driving experience.  If you have a 3-year-old, ask what types of activities she/he likes to do with that age child.  If you need someone who cooks, ask what they like to cook.  Don’t ask a bunch of yes or no questions, but more questions that start with “How would you handle…”  “Tell me about a time you…” This way you can see how they would react in a difficult situation.

Interview all – Make sure that all the members of your family have a chance to Skype with your favorite au pairs.  You can even introduce your babies or pets and tell the au pairs a little about them.  This will help your potential au pair to understand your family a little more.  You might even want to consider talking with the au pair’s family to get a better understanding of him/her.

Ling from China
Ling from China
Julia from France
Julia from France
Teresa from Spain
Teresa from Spain

#3 Understand your part

Remember, this is not a job interview; this is a cultural exchange program.  You are not hiring a nanny, but agreeing to participate in a program where the au pair will live in your home like a member of the family and take care of your kids.  Be sure you understand what you are agreeing to by hosting an au pair.

There are no guarantees that any match will be perfect, but by following these tips you and your au pair will understand each other better and hopefully be a great fit.

Top 7 Unexpected Reasons to get an Au Pair

The pictures in this post are of au pairs that currently available.  If you would like to see their full profile, click on their picture. This post is a update from a post from September 2012.