Many families need help from a nanny or after school sitter. Oftentimes, these childcare providers become members of the family to the children they supervise. When there is a change in a childcare provider, it is important to consider the impact on the child.
Adults often struggle with change, and children do too. They may not understand why a nanny or sitter is leaving the family. There are two parts to this transition – managing the nanny departure of the old caregiver and preparing for the entrance of the new nanny. Children have a harder time trusting new people and transitioning to a new schedule, so when welcoming a new nanny, show enthusiasm and positivity. When a nanny transitions out of the home, be respectful and compassionate. With support and communication, children can learn to better manage change and develop resiliency.
Managing a Nanny Departure
Ideally, your nanny will have worked for you for a while but sometimes, nanny departures are abrupt. In either case, it may be difficult for the children to understand why someone who has cared for them is leaving. Young children often view the nanny as an extended family member, a playmate, and someone who can tuck them into bed at night. Make sure they understand the departure is not their fault. Comparing nannies to teachers may be helpful as younger children understand that they will have a new teacher and new classmates when they move from kindergarten into first grade.
When possible and age-appropriate, tell the children in advance that the nanny will be departing, but not too far ahead of the departure date. Align with the nanny and give consistent answers about when and why the nanny is leaving. Allow children to ask questions and help them through their emotions and feelings. Share the positives things the nanny did for the children and reassure the children that those things will still get done, either by a new nanny or by other members of the family. Let children know it’s okay to miss the nanny and be sad they are leaving. Importantly, make sure the children know the nanny’s departure is not their fault.
If appropriate, help the children create a special way to say goodbye to the nanny or give a special gift. Children can create a memory or photo book with pictures of the nanny and places they went together. They could also create a piece of art or do a craft activity to gift the nanny. For older children, writing a special note or story may be a great way to say goodbye. If a nanny is departing on good terms and the nanny is comfortable with staying in touch, comfort the child by letting them know they may contact the nanny or perhaps visit a park together in the future.
Children will watch the parents and nanny for cues on how to behave. It is vital that all the adults set aside their feelings and behave respectfully. Even if the experience wasn’t positive, the children and nanny likely had a connection that may make a transition difficult. As children process the transition, they may exhibit changes in behavior for up to 6 months. Some children may be anxious and have more temper tantrums while others may not seem affected but regress in toilet training.
If a nanny leaves abruptly without a farewell to the children, the parents need to make sure the children understand they didn’t do anything to cause the departure. The children may experience feelings of abandonment or hurt and anger. Parents should focus on reassuring the children and refrain from negative references about the nanny’s departure. If children are struggling with a departed nanny, have the children write the nanny a letter or draw a picture for them, even if you never plan to mail it to the nanny.
Preparing for a New Nanny
Before a new nanny arrives, take the time to write down important information so the nanny can have a reference document. A cheat sheet that contains emergency contact information, an example daily schedule, lists with ideas for meals and snacks as well as the children’s favorite books can help the nanny better connect with the children. A checklist to help you orient the nanny to different aspects of the position as well as remind you to share where the pediatric medicine is kept and where spare wipes are stored is a great idea for the first few days. A local map with nearby parks circled and highlighted directions to swim class can help a new nanny find their way around the community. If you want a daily log completed, have a few printed out to help the nanny learn to track the information you’d like to see.
When a nanny has accepted the position, share this with the children. Explain that there will be a new nanny who will spend more time with the family. If they met the nanny during the interview process, remind the children of the activities they did with the nanny, so they can remember the positive experience. During the first few days, be available to support the transition as the nanny and children get comfortable with each other. Until settled into a new routine, don’t over-schedule the children or have play dates where other children may disrupt the newly forming relationships between your children and the new nanny. Try not to schedule any overnight trips during the early transition period.
If the child comes to you with complaints about the new nanny, listen carefully. It may be challenging to determine if these are real issues or if they are the result of the new nanny doing things a little differently. You may hear how the old nanny was ‘better’ or ‘nicer’. Explaining to children that they may be multiple ‘right’ ways to do things and giving them time to adjust to the changes may be all that is required. If their complaints last more than a couple of weeks, you might want to investigate further.
The time of transition can be stressful for everyone. New nannies may have a difficult entrance into the family if the children are still processing their feelings about a departed nanny. Like most aspects of parenting, it is important to stay tuned to both your family as a whole and your child’s individual needs. Also, be sure to have open dialogues with the new nanny to understand how they are adjusting and coping with the transition period. If you have a child or children who are more sensitive to transitions, you should consider this factor in your hiring decision and aim to hire local long-term nannies over part-time nannies who may have a higher turnover rate.