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Helping Your Child Adjust to a New Caregiver

February 3, 2014

newnanny1Any new addition to the household will have a big impact on your child, especially if it’s a nanny or caregiver who will be stepping into your shoes to care for them. This transition requires implementing a delicate process to create that special new bond. We asked Dr. Lindsay Heller, Psy. D and family psychologist, (also known as The Nanny Doctor) who specializes in assisting families as they adjust to life with a caregiver and in mediating healthy household relationships, for some tips.

“When it comes to transitioning a new caregiver into the mix, there are many different steps you can take to help your child, nanny and family have a smooth transition,” says Heller, who is a former nanny herself.

Don’t Switch Cold Turkey

Circumstances for the dismissal or resignation of the former nanny will likely vary from family to family.  Some instances might preclude a workable, slow transition for the child, which is ideal. If at all possible, try to avoid a scenario where your current nanny just disappears one day. Regardless of your personal feelings, a caregiver shares a bond with a child and sensitivity is needed when severing that connection.

According to Heller, “The first thing is actually to make sure they have a healthy transition away from their last caregiver. That way they are ready and open to start a new relationship.”

Create a Comfortable Overlap

“If possible, overlap with your caregiver for a day or even a week to help your child feel comfortable,” Heller recommends.

Building trust takes time, and a child may feel ill at ease with a stranger, despite verbal reassurances by the parents. Spending time with the child and the nanny allows them to observe your confidence in the new caretaker through your body language. In practical matters, it also ensures you can share all the finer details of life at the house and in regards to your child’s personal preferences (cut her cheese sandwich in triangles, not the dreaded rectangle!) to lessen any upheaval.

Create a Fun Atmosphere

“Set up activities you know your child loves so that your new caregiver and child are guaranteed to have a good time!” advises Heller.

If your child is an animal fanatic, this is a great time for an excursion to the zoo. Sharing a favorite animal or other easy –to-connect-on personal loves (be it slides at the playground, certain shops at the mall or various fruits at the farmer’s market) can facilitate conversation between nanny and child, allowing them to warm up to each other without feeling pressured.

Set Clear Expectations

“As an employer, make sure you lay out what is expected… Type up a schedule, provide important phone numbers, introduce your nanny to the neighborhood, show them the park” says Heller.

Kids have a knack for picking up on uncertainty, and may get stressed by their caretaker being off her game or unprepared because she wasn’t filled in on the basics. If a nanny is left to guess what you might like for her to do when it comes to childcare, it could set up unwelcome precedents that will be difficult to undo (napping with lights on, watching television during meals, snacking between meals, etc.) This is not a great time to forget to stock the child’s preferred foods or drinks or forget to retrieve his sleeping lovey from the dryer, as he might negatively connect having to “make do” with the new person in authority. The key is to make everything operate as smoothly and normally as possible so the child and caregiver can concentrate on building a relationship that will make everyone feel happy, safe and secure.


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val hines says:

my kids are VERY slow to accept change, which has been a problem in the past when we’ve switched caregivers (and really when we’ve done anything out of the norm). we’ve tried these tactics but they still haven’t been very receptive. is there anything we can do to open up our kids more to change in general, or is this just a personality trait?