Monthly Archives: February 2010

How to Communicate with your nanny

How to communicate with your nanny

When we follow up with our clients and nannies once their employment relationship has begun sometimes there are problems to address in the first three to four months. The most prevalent problem I encounter is a break down in communication.

We always recommend that both our clients and nannies take a business approach to their employment relationship at the core of which is establishing an employment contract. Other helpful aids are a nanny journal, childcare profiles and scheduled brief meetings to discuss the position (including a three month performance review).

Employment contract
Such an agreement should limit misunderstandings regarding employment conditions, making sure that all parties are on the same page now and in the future. Issues covered in the employment contract can include salary, benefits, hours of work, main duties and responsibilities, vacation entitlements, use of a vehicle and travel with the family.

Nanny Journal
Most nannies we interview like the idea of using a nanny journal. The purpose of this journal is to encourage communication between employer and employee.
If this isn’t possible introduce a diary system which allows the nanny to record the events of the day including appointments, meals, social outings, sleep times and medications as well as the child’s developmental steps.

Child profile
A child profile is designed to ease your child and your nanny through the initial transition period. You can download this form directly form our website if you are a member. These forms address the child’s eating habits, preferred activities, sleeping routine and the parent’s philosophy with regard to discipline, safety and nutrition

Schedule brief meetings
Many nannies cite poor communication as a reason for leaving a position. So it is important to take time at the beginning and the end of each day (in the first two weeks) to meet with your nanny briefly. If possible do this when the children are not able to hear this discussion, especially if they are older. After this initial period is over consider a weekly review which involves an informal discussion allowing both parties to give and receive feedback.

Provide positive feedback and praise for a job well done; conversely, if you are unhappy in any way with the nannies performance, discuss this immediately.
These meeting can gradually become less frequent as your confidence and trust in your nanny increases over time.

Although all of the above suggestions are useful it is important, during the interview and screening period to thoroughly assess your nanny with regard to her communication skills. You may want to ask situational questions to asses the applicant’s ability to communicate. Discuss a negative scenario that you may have experienced with past caregivers and ask the applicant how they would handle the situation and communicate to resolve it. When checking references always ask how the nanny communicated with the parents and the children.
Open and honest communication is extremely important in any employment situation. It is especially important when you hire a nanny. Small misunderstanding can often lead to more problematic ones due to lack of communication.

I think my Nanny is using the phone too much—what do I do?

As in any employment situation, it is unprofessional for an employee to make too many personal phone calls while they are being paid to do a job.

Unfortunately it is often very difficult to know if your nanny is using the phone and employers often must rely on a somewhat unreliable source –their children.

This is a difficult situation as it also puts the children in a position that could be detrimental to their relationship with their nanny.

If you think your nanny may be phone-obsessed to the point of it being dangerous for your kids than this issue must be addressed immediately. Talking on the phone too much means she is likely too distracted to keep track of your children. The following tips could help resolve this problem

• Make sure you are very clear about your position (as an employer)with regard to phone use (both home and cell)
• If your nanny is a live in and you think she will be making long distance calls make sure the nanny and you have an arrangement with regard phone use to payment. It is wise to have this agreement in your employment contract
• Purchase a cell phone that you will pay for or offer to pay for. Make sue it is in your name so you get the bill. This way you can see what calls are being made to your nanny and what calls she is making during her work hours
• If you have no other alternative you can carefully ask the children if they have seen their nanny talk on the phone but make sure you do it in a casual way so your children do not know you are concerned about this issue

Finally it is obvious that being direct and honest is always the best approach if you think your nanny is speaking on the phone too much especially if you think it is effecting the quality of care she is providing to the children. This can be a difficult and sensitive situation but you certainly do not want to get to the point where your children and neighbors are spying for you

Transitioning a New Nanny

working-mother-and-nannyOften when we hire a new caregiver it is because there is a change in the dynamic of the family or your present nanny is resigning from the position. This can be a very difficult time for the children especially if a new child is coming along.
Recently I received a call from one of my clients who had hired a nanny through our agency about two years ago. She was upset that her nanny was leaving but also very happy for her good fortune (as she was leaving the province to get married) I immediately thought that it would be somewhat challenging to find a caregiver who could take the place of this nanny who had become part of their family. She had developed a wonderful relationship with the children. My client’s main concern was how her children (5 and 3) were going to adjust to a new caregiver especially when a new baby was due right around the time their nanny was planning to leave.
I found another nanny for the family within a few weeks, That was the easy part. The harder part was to help the family shift these two children into life with the newly appointed nanny.
The goal in this case was to help the children feel safe and comfortable with their new caregiver We know that this may take some time. The new nanny was a professional and understood that the children might act out and may or may not be in full control of their emotions after “losing” their nanny. In this situation there are several ideas that I suggested to the family to help the children and the new nanny with the transition.
• If the child is older involve them in the process of hiring a new nanny. When we do in-home consultations we will often ask the children for their input –like what kinds of things they like to do with their nanny and where they like to go
• Begin to mention the nanny’s name in the days leading up to her arrival. Tell them that their nanny can’t wait to see them.
• Have your child “take the lead” in terms of showing their new nanny around your home. Encourage them to describe activities they like, what the dog does, or stories about some fun things that they’ve done in or outside your home.
• Make the arrival of your nanny as a big and fun event for your children if they are old enough to understand. Have your children draw welcome pictures in the nanny’s room and/or make her a card. Ask them what they think their nanny likes to eat and have them help you bake cookies for a special nanny arrival party.
• Try to keep the children’s schedule the same for consistency. This way the children do not experience too much change at once. Give your nanny information about each child-like what activities they like to do, what foods they like and even what discipline philosophies work
• Try to arrange a overlap of care. If possible start your new nanny one to two weeks before the first one leaves. This is beneficial as a training period and also allows the children to spend time with both caregivers which is a better stepping stone then an immediate transfer from one caregiver to another. The children will see that the nanny they love and trust is working with and trusts the new caregiver which will also help ease the transition. If this is not possible it is a good idea for the children’s mother or father to be involved in this transition period.
• The new nanny should develop and initiate creative and fun ideas to do with each child individually. One idea is to make a going away gift for the nanny who is leaving.
• Be patient. Children can be very blunt and sometime cruel. An experienced nanny will understand that the anger and frustration that the children are expressing is not against the new nanny but because of their loss of the old one
Finally, acknowledge your children’s attachment to their previous caregiver: If your children had a strong bond with their previous nanny, understand that in order to bond with a new nanny, your children must come to terms with the loss of the previous caregiver. Explain the reasons for the transition. Talk to your children about their feelings toward their beloved nanny, and if possible, continue to maintain contact with her.