Monthly Archives: September 2015

Signs of Homesickness

So, you’ve been with the family now for a couple of weeks and the “honeymoon” phase is slowly fading away. Activities are not as exciting as they use to be and you find yourself thinking about home more. You may be experiencing homesickness.

Although homesickness is quite self-explanatory, I’d like to discuss it a bit further and comfort you in saying that this is a perfectly normal occurrence! It happens to everyone and it can be seen as a positive thing.

Defined, homesickness is the “distress or functional impairment cause by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents.” Josh Klapow, a clinical Traveling Woman 2psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama’s School of Public Health says that it “stems from our instinctive need for love, protection and security-feelings and qualities usually associate with home.” So, although you are away from home, your emotions are reminding you that home is a good place and you should feel lucky to have a place like that so special to you.

Understanding homesickness, and where it stems from, can help you to deal with it better and perhaps you’ll feel less anxious as to why you’re feeling sad or lonely and just embrace those emotions. Here are some common signs of homesickness and suggestions on how to deal with them:

Feeling sad, lonely or insecure
You may feel as though you are an outsider and that no matter how hard you try, you cannot fit in anywhere. Don’t be too discouraged if the first couple of times you try to hang out with someone, your plans fall through or if you can’t even find someone you own age. Keep trying to meet new people and don’t be afraid to approach someone! A simple “Hi, how are you?” could create a friendship.

Crying
Crying for no particular reason is a totally normal part of homesickness. You’re sad and this is your body’s natural reaction. Let yourself be sad and you should feel better after. With the highs come the lows.

Feeling unusually anxious or upset about something Again, you may have no rhyme or reason for feeling on edge but it’s just your body’s way to reacting to discomfort. Put yourself in a comfortable situation such as talking on the phone with your parents, or taking the evening off to watch your favourite movie.

Being unable to get into a comfortable routine
You can’t find your groove and feel as though you need guidance. Ask your host parents if they can recommend any good sport facilities such as gyms, swimming pools or yoga studios. Find an activity in the community that happens once a week or so. This is a great opportunity to meet new friends and have a weekly activity to look forward to! Use online forums and chats such as meetup.com to find people in your area who enjoy the same activities as you.

Reminiscing about times at home
The idea of mom’s homemade meals and dad’s lame jokes may keep popping up in your mind throughout the day. Share these thoughts/memories with people around you; especially your host parents! This is a great way to make a connection with your new host family and to spark a conversation on their past memories. This is also a great opportunity to make your new home a home. Dive into the family’s activities, make a craft with one of the kids or redecorate your room! Home is where the heart is.

It is important to remember that these feelings of homesickness will pass and if you push through them your time abroad will be more beneficial than just getting on the next plane home.Au pair and child It’s important to understand that homesickness is a normal occurrence for everyone and that it is an emotion. Usually, emotions come in waves and you have the strength to ride it out until it’s done! Your emotions are telling you that you are out of your element. It’s good to push ourselves out of our element because it allows us to grow and prosper. But with ying comes yang and we cannot see the light unless we have dark.

 

 

12 Reasons To Be An Au Pair At Least Once

 

I’ve heard every excuse in the book as to why people can’t be Au Pairs: it’s too much money, it’s scary, I’ll lose my job if I take that my time off work. I’m going to put an end to all of those nasty thoughts in your head right now and let you in on a little secret: You can do it! And here are some reasons why you should:

1) You get to travel inexpensively 

If money is an issue for you but you still want to get out and explore the world, then being an Au Pair is a great opportunity for you. You’ll need to save a bit of cash for your passport, visa and flight but other than that, you‘re ready to go!

While not only getting free room & board, you’ll also be receiving some pocket money. This can go towards weekend trips, language courses or just treating yourself to some shopping.

2) Full immersion into a new culture

Your friend who backpacked across Europe in a month may have stayed in every hostel on the continent, but can they say that they know how to make a traditional gâteau au chocolat or can fluently have a conversation in Italian with a lady at the bus stop? When you’re living with a foreign family, their culture becomes your day-to-day. You will begin celebrating new holidays you never knew existed or adapting new ways of thinking. And these things will last a lot longer than the free pair of sunglasses for from the pub crawl.

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3) You’ll learn more about your own culture

As much as you are there to learn about your host family’s culture, they want to learn about yours too. You may find yourself saying things like, “Oh yea, I guess Canadians do say sorry a lot” or “Your milk doesn’t come in a bag?!” When introduced to a new culture, you will take a step back from your own and observe it from a third party perspective. You’ll gain a further appreciation and pride for your own country.

4) Learn a new language

If you choose to travel to a non-English speaking country, then you will have the opportunity to learn a new language. When surrounded by it every day, all while attempting to communicate, by the end of your year abroad you’ll be speaking, understanding and writing the language

Most host families want their children to learn English which is why they hire a Canadian Au Pairs. You can come to the agreement that the parents will speak their native language to you and you will speak English to the kids. Doing this will increase your brain activity as learning a new language is like aerobics for your brain!

5) Teach a language

After some time there, you will feel the pride of watching the kids linguistic skills grow throughout your time abroad. At the beginning, they may only understand bits and pieces of what you’re saying but by the end you’ll be discussing which cup is better: the purple one or the green one.       

Also, some Au Pairs tutor on the weekend to families in the community who want to learn/improve their English language skills. This is a great way to make some more connections in the community and earn some extra cash.

6) Study abroad

Something most Canadians don’t know is that in some countries, studying is free for locals and foreigners alike (check out Germany). If you’re planning on studying abroad where tuition fees are not quite as luxurious, then I go back to my first point: Free room & board. Many students balance part-time jobs and school to help gain experience and pay for their education. Why not do this in a new country where you can learn a new culture all while living for free? You’ll be the all-time traveling super hero: student by day, Au Pair by night! 

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7) Gain a new family

Many Au Pairs leave their year abroad feeling as though they made deep connections with their host family. After multiple family dinners, outings and fun days in the park, it’s nowonder that some Au Pairs find it difficult to leave the family. Children develop at such a fast rate when they’re young and it’s amazing to watch them grow and learn every day. The Au Pair may leave feeling like the big sister in the family.

8) Make lasting ties across the globe

The great thing about being an Au Pair is that it gives you the opportunity to meet other Au Pairs. As this is a foreign program, you will likely get to meet people from all across the world! As if the host family isn’t enough to just call up the next time you’re in Italy, what about your new German friend? I’m sure she would love to have you for a visit. Or, take a trip down under to stay with your new Aussie mate. Or, have a weekly Skype chat with your new Danish pal. Making international friends gives you an excuse to pack up your bags again and explore someplace new. 

9) Personal growth

Living abroad leads to self-growth in so many ways. Just stepping out of your comfort zone and navigating your way through a new town/city/country will help you gain more self-confidence and self-reliance. On top of all of that,  if you’re learning a new culture and new language your views of the world will change and you will diversify your thoughts, values and experiences. 

10) Competitive edge on your resume

When applying for jobs, employers are looking for applicants that stand out from the others. Traveling can be a giant “ice-breaker” for the interview. Also, employers understand the benefits of having a group of culturally diverse employees in the workplace. Learning how to maneuver your way through cultural barriers and being able to adapt to cultural differences are huge skills which cannot be learned in the classroom.

11) The paper work isn‘t that bad

Alright, most of you who were not lucky enough to have foreign parents will have to get a visa. Believe me, it’s not the most glamourous process but, it isn’t impossible. To ease the stress and make sure it’s done correctly the first time, you might want to go through an agency to complete the grueling paperwork. A good place to check it is International Nannies

12) There’s nothing stopping you. Just do it!

School, friends, and boy/girlfriends will all be there when you come back. If you don’t have any kids and you’re not the president,  you don’t have any excuses! The world is out there just waiting for you to explore it and home will still be there when you get back. A year abroad is not that long, especially if it in one that will positively impact you for the rest of your life.               

Best Childcare Option for your Family: Nanny or Au Pair?

Child Care ConceptWhat is the best in-home care option for your family?

A Nanny or an Au Pair?

Locally based childcare in Canada is extremely difficult to find and consequently many parents choose to hire an applicant from overseas through the In-Home Caregiver Program. This is a temporary foreign worker program which enables families to hire a nanny for their children, or a caregiver for their elderly or disabled relatives.

In order to qualify, nannies must have obtained at least one full year of work experience or completed a full-time six month long caregiving course. There is no age limit for nanny applicants but the majority fall between 25-45 years of age. Though their duties are predominantly childcare, a live-in nanny can also perform light housekeeping and , meal preparation for the family.

In turn, the family must be able to offer their nanny applicant a full-time, long-term employment. The nanny may live in the home with the family but room and board must be free of charge. It also helps the nanny who can learn from the family and settle into living and working in Canada since typically this will be her first time in the country.  

The employer when hiring an overseas nanny must pay for her travel costs, including airfare, but many families use their travel points to fly their nanny to Canada.  Depending on the province in which they are based, the family may also be required to  pay for her to be covered for temporary private health insurance if she is not immediately eligible on her arrival to apply for provincial health insurance coverage.

Depending on province, a full-time live in nanny starts at $ 395 – 450 per week.

Hiring someone through the In-Home Caregiver Program can be extremely successful and many parents gain a long term, consistent and reliable live-in or live-out nanny, someone they and their children have grown over time to know and trust. In-Home nannies provide great flexibility right in your home and provide that extra pair of hands for busy families.

However there is a lengthy wait for a nanny’s arrival, often taking about six months for all the paperwork to be processed.

If a family is planning to go the overseas nanny route, PLAN AHEAD !!

And because the nanny’s employment is required to be full-time, it is not a program that is suited to the needs of all families.

This is one of the reasons why a growing number of parents are choosing to hire an Au Pair. An Au Pair is someone who is also based overseas and looking for a childcare position with a Canadian family, but is typically younger (18-27) with less professional work experience, and interested as much in the cultural benefits of their stay. They too live in their employers’ home and learn about the Canadian way of life, but also take an active part in family life; becoming a big sister to the children they are caring for. Childcare makes up the majority of their duties and while they may do some tidying of the home and laundry, this is only as it relates to the children i.e. tidying the children’s toys, washing the children’s clothing etc. Au Pairs also typically hold full drivers licences and are thus able to drive the children to and from school and other activities if required by the family.

Au Pairs obtain a work permit through the International Experience Canada (IEC) program, which allows them to live and work in the country for a maximum of one year usually. The application process is expeditious, taking approximately 8-12 weeks. And because a job offer isn’t required prior to applying, many Au Pairs will have obtained their Visa even before interviewing with families so can travel to Canada as soon as they have found the perfect family to work for. For parents, the process of hiring an Au Pair is extremely simple as the Au Pair herself is responsible for purchasing her own airfare and temporary travel insurance for the duration of her stay. Au Pairs are not required to work a certain number of hours so they can be flexible, working full or part time as their host family requires.

Because they lack the professional work experience of a nanny, Au Pairs are not usually suitable for taking care of newborn and very young babies. However for toddlers and older children they can be great role models, introducing your family to another culture and even another language. While some families hire an Au Pair to cover their childcare needs for a full twelve months, others may only be needed during the school year or even while a family is waiting for their live-in nanny’s application to be approved.  Whatever the situation, Au Pairs make a great immediate and temporary childcare solution for some, while for other families a live-in nanny provides that consistent, long-term childcare they require.   

 

Manuela Gruber Hersch is the owner of International Nannies & Homecare Ltd.(www.internationalnannies.com ) and also a founding director of ACNA Canada ( Association of Caregiver & Nanny Agencies Canada). She also came to Canada as an overseas live in nanny and employs a live in nanny for her two children.