Monthly Archives: August 2015

Helping Your Child Get a Good Night’s Sleep

garden-Stock-PhotoA full day of school can use up a lot of your child’s energy.  Add in homework and extra-curricular or social activities, and your Au pair can see why adequate rest is important to keep those little bodies thriving.

While each child is different, these guidelines can help you spot if your child’s sleep schedule is on track for her age. This chart includes naps.
1-3 Years: 12 – 14 hours per day
3-6 Years: 10 – 12 hours per day
7-12 Years: 10 – 11 hours per day
12-18 Years: 8 – 10 hours per day

Just how important is sleep to your child’s ability to focus in school?  In a National Sleep Foundation experiment, children were asked to go to bed later than normal for a week, and then were asked to spend no fewer than 10 hours in bed for another week. During the week of later bedtimes, teachers rated these kids as having more academic problems and more attention problems.

Here’s how your Au pair can encourage healthy sleep habits for your child:

Finish homework and dinner with enough time for the family to unwind a bit before bedtime. Make sure your child’s room is relaxing and safe with no electronics or screens to distract him at night. Just as you baby-proofed when she was little, do some investigating to make sure her room isn’t a source of hidden toxins or allergens. Choose an organic mattress and wash sheets and bedding often with a natural laundry soap.
Set a specific bedtime working backward from what hour your child must wake up to get to school on time (or the time you typically begin homeschooling) and allow for the age-appropriate number of hours your child needs to rest.
Create a predictable bedtime routine.  A younger child will need more guidance through his nightly routine, while an older child can begin practicing self-care.

Your Au pair’s routine could include:

• a warm bath
• brushing teeth
• reading a book together
• following a guided meditation designed for kids
• sing a calm song
• last call for bathroom trips and a drink of water
• good night snuggles

Building a Great Relationship with your child

A9R7AACWant to be a great parent or a great Au pair? Want to raise a happy, healthy, well-behaved kid? Want to live in a home where discipline becomes unnecessary?
The secret is to create a closer connection with your child.
“What do you mean? Of course I love my kid, and I tell him so all the time. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need discipline!”
It isn’t enough that we tell our children we love them. We need to put our love into action every day for them to feel it. And when we do that our kids need a lot less discipline!
“But what does that mean, putting our love into action?”
Mostly, it means making that connection with our child our highest priority. Love in action
means paying thoughtful attention to what goes on between us, seeing things from our child’s point of view, and always remembering that this child who sometimes may drive us crazy is still that precious baby we welcomed into our arms with such hope.
“Doesn’t that take a lot of energy?”
It takes a lot of effort to fully attend to another human being, but when we are really present with our child, we often find that it energizes us and makes us feel more alive, as being fully present with anyone does. Being close to another human takes work. But 90% of people on their deathbed say that their biggest regret is that they didn’t get closer to the people in their lives. And almost all parents whose children are grown say they wish
they had spent more time with their kids, however with the busy life most parents face, finding more time with our children is more difficult, having an Au pair in Australia to give you an extra hand at home is so helpful and lets you spend more quality time with your children.

“Being fully present? How can I do that when I’m just trying to get dinner on the table and keep from tripping over the toys?”
Being present just means paying attention. Like a marriage or a friendship, your relationship with your child needs positive attention to thrive. Attention = Love. Like your garden, your car, or your work, what you attend to flourishes.
And, of course, that kind of attentiveness takes time. You can multi-task at it while you’re making dinner, but the secret of a great relationship is some focused time every day attending only to that child.
“This is all too vague for me. What am I supposed to actually DO?”
Start right for a firm foundation.
The closeness of the parent-child connection throughout life results from how much parents and au pairs connect with their babies, right from the beginning.
For instance, research has shown that fathers who take a week or more off work when
their babies are born have a closer relationship with their child at every stage, including as teens and college students. Is this cause and effect?
The bonding theorists say that if a man bonds with his newborn, he will stay closer to her
throughout life. But you don’t have to believe that bonding with a newborn is crucial to note that the kind of man who treasures his newborn and nurtures his new family is likely to continue doing so in ways that bring them closer throughout her childhood.

Remember that all relationships take work.

Good parent-child connections don’t spring out of nowhere, any more than good marriages do. Biology gives us a headstart — if we weren’t biologically programmed to love our infants the human race would have died out long ago but as kids get older we need to build on that natural bond, or the challenges of modern life can erode it. Luckily, children automatically love their parents. As long as we don’t blow that, we can keep the connection strong. Prioritize time with your child.
Assume that you’ll need to put in a significant amount of time creating a good relationship
with your child. Quality time is a myth, because there’s no switch to turn on closeness. Imagine that you work all the time, and have set aside an evening with your husband, whom you’ve barely seen in the past six months. Does he immediately
start baring his soul? Not likely.
In relationships, without quantity, there’s no quality. You can’t expect a good relationship
with your daughter if you spend all your time at work and she spends all her time with her
friends. So as hard as it is with the pressures of a job and daily life, if we want a better relationship with our kids, we have to free up the time or hire an au pair to make that happen.
Start with trust, the foundation of every good relationship.
Trust begins in infancy, when your baby learns whether she can depend on you to pick her up when she needs you. By the time babies are a year old, researchers can assess whether babies are “securely attached” to their parents, which basically means the baby trusts that his parents can be depended on to meet his emotional and physical needs.

A Healthy Immune System Starts with a Healthy Gut

A9RB347Did you know that your intestinal tract is home to billions of different microbes (known as your intestinal microflora) made up of bacteria, yeast, and fungi?  Some of these mi-crobes are bad and can cause illness, but some are good.  These good microbes, called probi-otics, have a positive and wide-ranging impact on your overall health.

We naturally have a mix of both good and bad bacteria in us.   When we eat fermented foods, like yogurt or sauerkraut, we ingest more even more probiotic-rich bacteria.  Taking probiotics as a supplement, however, is a good idea for most people as the amounts we get from food alone are far lower than therapeutic doses.  Even if you think everything feels fine in your gut, remember, probiotics do more than just help keep gas and bloating at bay.

Probiotics are an important part of a healthy body as they: 

• Help keep your digestive system running smoothly
• Boost immunity
• Help produce many B vitamins
• Digest lactose and some forms of fiber
• Assist in the digestion and absorption of many nutrients
• Inhibit the growth of bad bacteria

When the number of good bacteria in your intestinal tract is outnumbered by the bad you may experience gas, bloating, diarrhea, and even constipation.  These symptoms can range from mild to quite severe.  While just getting sick can result in decreased numbers of good probiotic bacteria, antibiotic use is one of the primary reasons that good bacteria gets wiped from our system.

Antibiotics treat bacterial infections, but they don’t discern between good and bad when doing their job; they just kill off all the bacteria.  This is why one of the most common side effects of antibiotic use is stomach and digestive system upset.  Taking probiotics a few hours away from antibiotic medication, followed up by intensive supplementation after completing your medication will help recolonize your intestinal tract with probiotic bacteria.

Did you know that your intestinal tract is home to billions of different microbes (known as your intestinal microflora) made up of bacteria, yeast, and fungi?  Some of these microbes are bad and can cause illness, but some are good.  These good microbes, called probiotics, have a positive and wide-ranging impact on your overall health.

While many of us try to avoid using antibiotics unnecessarily on our families and our-selves, there’s no doubt that they have their place, and when used properly can help us feel better when we need them.  Overuse of antibiotics has created a whole new strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria called super-bugs.  Antibiotic-resistant infections cause thousands of deaths each year. Probiotics have antimicrobial activity, and some experts believe that they could play an increased role in the prevention and treatment of some of these superbug infections.

Preventing illness in the first place is the best way to avoid the need for anti-biotics. Explain the next measures to your Au pair so that she can help you in your absence   Some easy ways to keep your immune system healthy include:

• Washing your hands well (try singing “Happy Birthday” twice!). Stick with soap
and water and avoid antibacterial products. Products marketed as being antibacterial
use Triclosan as the active ingredient, which may do more harm than good.
Studies are starting to come out suggesting that Triclosan may, in fact, be helping to
create some of these superbugs.
• Avoid sugar as it suppresses your immune system for hours after you eat it and feeds
the bad bacteria in your intestinal tract.
• Ensure adequate intake of good quality protein, which is the building block for the
antibodies that fight infection.
• Choose a healthy lifestyle; the activity of natural killer cells is supported by not
smoking, getting enough sleep, regular exercise, and an increased intake of green
• Eat more garlic as it contains allicin, a phytochemical shown to be effective in fighting colds, flus and other illnesses due to its antibacterial and antiviral properties.
• Eating mushrooms like shiitake, cremini and many dried varieties will boost your intake of zinc and selenium, both powerful immune system supporters. Plus, the beta glucans in mushrooms will help regulate white blood cell activity.

Nutrients like vitamin C, the B vitamins, vitamin E, and carotenes are also important for a healthy immune system.  Choose to eat a variety of whole, unprocessed foods to maximize your intake of the widest range of nutrients possible. A good idea is to ask your au pair to avoid eating lots of sugary snacks  in front of the children.

Making simple changes like the ones above can help boost your immunity, but the infor-mation on how to maximize your intake of probiotic foods can be more confusing than helpful.  A quick walk down the aisles of a grocery store would have you believe that eating and drinking certain yogurts, cheeses, juices, and even chocolate bars will get your gut in tip top shape in no time due to their probiotic content.  The truth is, not all probiotics are created equally.  Bad bacteria feeds on simple sugars so if you’re eating a product laden with added sugars then you’re likely not getting much benefit from the probiotics that have been added.  Some of the best natural sources of probiotic bacteria include ferment-ed foods like:

• Plain yogurt (no sugar added)
• Plain kefir, a yogurt type drink traditionally made with dairy, but now also made with coconut, and even water!
• Sauerkraut
• Kombucha tea
• Kimchi
• Some cheeses

If you’re suffering from digestive upset, or trying to replace the good bacteria that has been wiped from your system after taking a round of antibiotics (remember antibiotics wipe out the good and the bad), then the amount of probiotics added to food won’t be enough.

Probiotic amounts in supplements are measured in CFUs (colony forming units) and when shopping for a good quality supplement there are a few things to consider in order to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Potency – make sure you’re getting a minimum of 100 million CFUs per dose.
Storage – most probiotics require refrigeration, although there are some products in “pearl” format that are shelf stable and more suitable for things like travelling.
Expiration date – a good manufacturer will guarantee their potency until the product’s expiry date and will list this right on the packaging.

Probiotics aren’t cheap, but smart shopping will help you navigate the supplement aisles and choose the best product.
There are many different strains of probiotics, known as species.  These strains have a variety of therapeutic effects, and some will be more helpful than others when targeting illnesses or symptoms.  There are products specifically de-signed for IBS, post-antibiotic use, and bowel disorders.  There are also products specifically geared towards children, as children’s intestinal tracts contain different microflora than adults.

When choosing probiotic supplements for your family be sure to choose the appropriate products for your needs, and if you’re con-fused work with a knowledgeable practitioner to help you make the best choice.  By taking care of your body with whole foods, making positive lifestyle changes, incorporating more fermented foods, and taking additional probiotic supplements you’ll help keep your intestinal tract feeling its best and boost your overall immunity at the same time.

Encouraging your child’s natural love of learning

A9R2CA9Nurturing a child’s love for learning begins with trust. As unschoolers, we trust our children to know when they are ready to learn and what they are interested in learning. We trust them to know how to go about learning. Parents and Au pairs commonly take this view of learning during the child’s first two years, when he is learning to stand, walk, talk, and to perform many other important and difficult things, with little help from anyone. No one worries that a baby will be too lazy, uncooperative, or unmotivated to learn these things; it is simply assumed that every baby is born wanting to learn the things he needs to know in order to understand and to participate in the world around him. These one- and two-year-old ex-perts teach us several principles of learning:

Children are naturally curious and have a built-in desire to learn first-hand about the world around them.

John Holt, in his book How Children Learn, describes the natural learning style of young children:

“The child is curious. He wants to make sense out of things, find out how things work, gain competence and control over himself and his environment, and do what he can see other people doing. He is open, perceptive, and experimental. He does not merely observe the
world around him. He does not shut him-self off from the strange, complicated world around him, but tastes it, touches it, hefts it, bends it, breaks it. To find out how reality works, he works on it. He is bold. He is not afraid of making mistakes. And he is patient. He can tolerate an extraordinary amount of uncertainty, confusion, ignorance, and sus-pense. … School is not a place that gives much time, or opportunity, or reward, for this kind of thinking and learning.”

Children know best
how to go about learning something

If left alone, children will know instinctively what method is best for them. Caring and observant parents soon learn that it is safe and appropriate to trust this knowledge. Such parents say to their baby, “Oh, that’s interesting! You’re learning how to crawl downstairs by facing backwards!” They do not say, “That’s the wrong way.” Perceptive parents and au pairs are aware  that there are many different ways to learn something, and they trust their children to know which ways are best for them.

Children need
plentiful amounts of quiet time to think

“Children who are good at fantasizing are better both at learning about the world and at learning to cope with its surprises and disappointment. It isn’t hard to see why this should be so. In fantasy we have a way of trying out situations, to get some feel of what they might be like, or how we might feel in them, without having to risk too much. It also gives us a way of coping with bad experiences, by letting us play and replay them in our mind until they have lost much of their power to hurt, or until we can make them come out in ways that leave us feeling less defeated and foolish.”

But fantasy requires time, and time is the most endangered commodity in our lives. Fully-scheduled school hours and extracurricular activities leave little time for children to dream, to think, to invent solutions to problems, to cope with stressful experiences, or simply to fulfill the universal need for solitude and privacy.

Children are not afraid to admit ignorance and to make mistakes

When Holt invited toddlers to play his cello, they would eagerly attempt to do so; school-children and adults would invariably decline.

Unschooling children, free from the intimidation of public embarrassment and failing marks, retain their openness to new exploration. Children learn by asking questions, not by answering them. Toddlers ask many questions, and so do school children until about grade three. By that time, many of them have learned an unfortunate fact: that in school, it can be more important for self-protection to hide one’s ignorance about a subject than to learn more about it, regardless of one’s curiosity.

Children take joy
in the intrinsic values of whatever they are learning

There is no need to motivate children through the use of extrinsic rewards, such as high grades or stars, which suggest to the child that the activity itself must be difficult or unpleasant; otherwise, why is a reward, which has nothing to do with the matter at hand, being offered? The wise parent says, “I think you’ll enjoy this book”, not “If you read this book, you’ll get a cookie.”

Children learn best
about getting along with other people through interaction with those of all ages, including an Au pair

No parents would tell their baby, “You may only spend time with those children whose birthdays fall within six months of your own. Here’s another two-year-old to play with.” John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, contends, “It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effec-tively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety; indeed, it

Finding the balance between independence and supervision

Free Rage Kids 

Finding the balance between independence and supervision

Let’s play a game. Visualize your childhood playtime routine.

A9R8F14Was it filled with running, playing and exploring in your backyard (and all your friends’ yards)? Did you ride your bike through your surrounding neighborhoods and maybe even to school to use the jungle gym ad nauseam? Were your summers permeated with spraying sprinklers, green rubber hoses, worn jump ropes, entire days spent outside, and skinned knees? Did your evenings entail playing ball outside until the street lights came on (at which point you knew you’d better get home and fast)? To many of us, this was a very close facsimile of childhood.

Today, these kids would be referred to as “free range.” Their parents would be practicing
“free range parenting” (also called “simplicity” or “slow parenting”). It often involves more unstructured free time, less of a focus on the use of electronic devices, and less hovering of parents around children as they play or make new discoveries. Children are ultimately al-lowed to explore the world at their own pace.

It is said that free range parenting is in response to the widespread trend for parents to schedule many activities and classes after school, solve problems for their children, and often “helicopter” around their children to help with any issues that arise. Others contend that this less hands-on, more independence-inducing style is simply a return to the style in which many of us were raised.

It is important to note some of the positives of free range parenting. The free range life-style allows children to develop many valuable skills, such as problem-solving, self-confi-dence, and creativity, to say nothing of the value of a well-honed imagination. Children with an active, exploratory life have lower risk of mental health and emotional issues and higher development of motor skills. It is said that the more time kids spend in the great outdoors, as well, lower their chances of developing asthma, allergies, and have a general immunity against many illnesses. They are also far better able to bounce back from the disappointments of life after gaining hands-on troubleshooting experience in their day-to-day activities.

But, as with most forms of parenting, opinions differ and controversies arise. With a greater awareness of child abuse and neglect, many are on the lookout for strange or “off ” behavior – such as seeing children out walking or playing without supervision of either a parent or an Au pair. Although each case and scenario is different and unique, many times we see in these news stories that the children ultimately get picked up by police and, due to proper procedure, taken to Child Protective Services before finally allowing the parents to have contact with their “missing” children.

There are two schools of thought here. One – those poor parents must have been frantic! Two – the same parents would feel worse if their children had gone missing for real. Both are completely valid points.

However, it’s important to note that America, in general, is at its safest point in years. Ac-cording to a recent child mortality report put together by numerous government agencies, childhood mortality has never been lower. In 1935, there were 450 deaths per 100,000 chil-dren aged 1 to 4, compared with today’s number of 30. Some of this can be attributed to a rise in the use of vaccines (do your homework and decide if this is right for you), but the rates have nonetheless continued to drop in recent decades. Homicide rates are at a low of 1.5 per 100,000 children under 14, as well.

Beyond these facts, though, comes the worry. It’s not just about a child’s possible death
(although that’s huge). What about an abduc-tion or disappearance? According to the FBI National Crime Information Center, reports of missing juveniles under 18 since 1997 are down 40%. This information also tells of the fact that a vast majority – 96% – of all missing person reports are runaways. A very minute percentage of these cases are what we might consider a “stereotypical kidnapping.” More details can be found through this informative Washington Post article, but the point is, basi-cally, that things are pretty darn safe on aver-age, depending on your particular life situa-tion and neighborhood demographic.

As parents, we all know that parenting isn’t “one size fits all.” Every child is unique and every parent and au pair reacts to situations differently. Hopefully, we can all agree that as long as children are in a loving, cared-for scenario – even if it’s completely different than our own – there’s nothing to worry about.

It is up to us to use our common sense and intuition to recognize when something is seri-ously wrong, or that we simply need to back off and allow other parents the courtesy to make their own choices for their families.