If there is anything I’ve learned as a parent, it is that collaboration and consistency are the keys to a successful partnership in caring for children. Nothing is worse than a child picking up on a weakness in alignment between his caregivers, and playing them against one another in a good-cop/ bad-cop juvenile drama. We have all been there, have we not? By the time Dad realizes that Mom just said no to candy, Junior already has inhaled a bag of M&M’s. Obviously, these parents have been played. We laugh, but on a serious note a little bit of forethought and communication can not only prevent these snafus, but also can strengthen the child’s underlying sense of security in the world. This tenet holds true for the relationship between co-parents, as well that of parents and nannies.
It is essential to first ensure that you and your nanny have the same goals when it comes to your home life and children. Coming into alignment may be a process, but is invaluable especially in the following areas:
Discipline: How should your child be disciplined? Time outs, withholding privileges – what fits your family values? Who should do the disciplining? Regardless of your terms, parents should always be aware of when their child is disciplined and what precipitated that action. Parents and caregivers should be in daily communication regarding behavioral challenges or mood abnormalities. Remember, the nanny is your pair of of eyes when you aren’t with your child, and may pick up on important clues to your child’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Activities: Are you on the same page about the length of time spent outside playing vs. spent using electronic devices? Are you encouraging of playdates, and if so, how often, and where will they take place? How accommodating are you to friends? Do you serve snacks and meals, or agree to sleepovers? Where is parental approval required?
Chores: Do you want your child participating in daily chores around the home, or is this only the nanny’s responsibility? What structure is in place for the nanny to follow, and what follow-through does she have if the child doesn’t comply? Or, are there tasks you do not want your child to be asked to perform? These are important topics to broach as you head into the long summer days.
Travel: Are you comfortable with your nanny driving your child? If so, what safety precautions must be enforced, such as booster seats? Is there a distance from home that you consider acceptable, or places you would consider too challenging for your nanny to try on her own with the kids, such as a water or amusement park? Does she drive her own car with your children, or yours? If hers, do you have a standard of mechanical upkeep?
Nutrition: Now here’s a “meaty” topic! What is allowed and what is not? What is your ideal regarding intake of sugar, veggies, and fast foods? Does your child have allergies or sensitivities? Are there acceptable “treats”, and if so, how often are they allowed to indulge? And perhaps often overlooked, is the nanny setting a good example with her nutrition?
Time Organization/ Scheduling: What are your expectations of your nanny? Do you leave a minute-by-minute breakdown of the day, as you expect it to happen, or do you leave the day free for her to fill in? Where does your nanny have time for a break, for her own preferences, or for unexpected activities to occur such as impromptu playdates? Make sure there isn’t any discrepancies with the schedule.
Nature of the Relationship: It’s important that parents and nannies understand the nature of their relationship. Lay out where the job begins, and where it ends. Is it ok for the nanny’s boyfriend or girlfriend to visit while she’s caring for your child? Will you want a closer, more familiar relationship with your nanny, such as inclusion at family dinners? Or will you want to set the expectation that family time and nanny time are separate? What kind of relationship feels right for both parties?
Regardless of your preferences family values, it’s important to nurture the parent and nanny relationship to a certain degree, even if it’s just a quick verbal validation that she’s doing a great job and that she is important to your family. Comfort is the key when encouraging positive communication flow about your children and their well-being. Coming into alignment on these important topics will make relations between parents and nannies smooth and frustration-free over the upcoming hot summer days.