For many expatriates, the opportunity to have an Ayi to help care for the children and the household is a welcome luxury. It’s important to remember, however, that what one person considers “common sense” is actually learned, and it varies from culture to culture. Many Ayis, for example, are very proud to be saving you money by topping up cleaning supply bottles with water when they are running low, when you might prefer that your Ayi uses them only at full strength and replaces them when they run out. Details you may not think necessary to discuss can become critical issues, so go over all household safety issues with her. Some issues to remember:
Make sure Ayi knows what to do if your child is injured or ill. Consider enrolling her in a first aid and CPR course. Decide in advance where the best place is to take your child under various circumstances (general illness, broken bone or sprain, major illness or accident, etc.), and make sure your Ayi knows your preference.
Make sure Ayi knows that all medications and hazardous household materials (including cleaning supplies) must ALWAYS be kept out of children’s reach (even if she’s leaving them out “just for a moment”), and that chemicals should be kept in their original containers.
Discuss when Ayi can leave the children unsupervised. When they are in another room? When they are outdoors? When they are at the pool? Be sure Ayi knows your home’s “danger” spots, and discuss with her the importance of keeping the children away from them: stairs, windows, sharp corners, garage door, hot burners and pots on the stovetop, the hot water tap on a water dispenser, etc.
Discuss good hand-washing hygiene for both her and the children when she’s watching them, including using hot, soapy water after going to the bathroom, being outdoors, handling pets, and before and after preparing food.
Make sure she knows that the bathroom and kitchen need special care to avoid spreading germs, and that these areas need to be cleaned with hot water and special cleaning products to kill germs. Have separate cleaning materials (sponges, mops, etc.) for the bathroom and for the kitchen that are not to be used to clean other areas of the house. Also be sure to discuss proper food hygiene (particularly the handling of raw meat).
Ayi’s personal health
Another issue to consider is your Ayi’s personal health. An annual domestic helper health screen to check for communicable diseases like hepatitis and tuberculosis is very important. These diseases are more prevalent in China than they may be in your home country, and while they may have no obvious outward symptoms, they can be easily spread through close contact like your Ayi will have with you and your family members.