Friday, June 23, 2006

Summer activities and safety around pool

With summer arriving in the northern hemisphere, a lot of us go to the pool to cool off. I love water and swimming, I don't know anyone who doesn't. Children are especially very fund of water, but can be very dangerous around the pool. When I take them to the pool, I take every precaution I can to male sure they are safe at all times. What does that mean? I never take my eyes off of them. Even better I am in the water with them at all times even if there is a lifeguard around. I recommend all au pairs to do the same to prevent any accidents.

I probably don't need to say this but I will: Babies can not go in the pool alone. Au pair has to be with them in the water, holding them at all times. Deep areas must be avoided. I recommended no more than 1 meter of water. Make sure the babies head is above the water at all times. Most aupairs will find themselves in the separate baby pool as the babies are not allowed in adult pools due to diaper accidents and safety reasons. Of course, sunscreen is very important as well. It should be applied all over the baby before putting a bathing suit/diaper on. It should be applied several times a day as instructed on the box. Be careful holding the sunscreened baby in the pool, he will be slippery!!!

How about the bigger children who don't want to be in the baby pool? I recommended an au pair to be with the child or watch him at all times! Sunscreen rules also apply to the older children.

What if you have a baby and an older child in your care? I am afraid it is not possible to watch them together. Au pair should not be taking care of kids who swim in the different pools. It is not possible. Remember you can't do two things at the same time and around water you can never be too careful. Ask the parents to help you out on pool days, they will understand and be happy with your concern about their children.

Older kids can be good swimmers and sometimes parents may say they don't need constant watching. In that case, you would follow their instructions, but you have to make sure there is a lifeguard on duty.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Cultural differences

For me the au pair experience is first about cultural exchange. Of course, a good au pair must love children and take care of them very well. However, when you live in another country with a host family you don't really know very well there will be differences. I said differences not issues or problems because I think most "problems" or "issues" stem from cultural differences. Of course, there might be valid problems as well with a host family or au pair such as parents who do not discipline their children or an au pair who is very homesick. Noone can disregard these and they should be addressed.

Every culture/society in the world has different ways to do different things. Even in Europe itself, people have different driving habits in Italy than in UK. In most mediterranean countries, people eat dinner late, live more laidback lifestyles and are more family oriented.

My best suggestion for au pairs and families is to research each other's culture very well. After all, hosting an au pair or being an au pair centers around cultural exchange. Children must fully participate in learning about au pair's culture if they are not too young. People who understand the cultural differences have better luck with the au pair program than people do not. Learn about the world and have fun!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Taking care of babies

Babies can be a lot of fun to take care of. After all Don't forget to added responsibility that comes with taking care of a baby. Au pairs usually are not supposed to take care of very young babies. Families should keep in mind that au pair is generally a young person and not an experienced childcare worker like a nanny.

Some important points for au pairs who are looking after infants:
Never leave the infant alone unless he is asleep
Be always very close to the infant when he is on a changing table or any other high place
Buckle the infant very well in car seats and high chairs
Do not give infant any food that can choke him
Only give him toys approved for his age, no little parts that come apart