Cited in – Preparing for a new family assignment

Preparing for a new family assignment

I was asked to weigh in on tips to help nannies prepare for new assignments. In her post, “How to prepare for a new family assignment,” Shannon Philpott describes the importance of finding the right fit between family and nanny. Parenting styles, communication, and children’s needs for smooth transitions are key points of her post.

Ask questions of yourself and the family

Like any job applicant, you should aim to find out as much as possible about a potential employer. As a nanny, this means learning as much as you can about a family and the responsibilities they are seeking in a nanny, says Alicia Clark, Washington, D.C.-based licensed clinical psychologist. Clark has employed several nannies for her children in the past and says that ideally, a family will provide a nanny with a job description and ask questions of him or her that demonstrate respect, careful parenting and integrity.

“Be prepared to ask questions yourself, too, aiming to demonstrate similar qualities,” says Clark. “Assuming the job responsibilities are carefully articulated and pay and compensation are detailed, look to get to know the family and their parenting styles as much as possible to see if they are a similar fit to your caregiving style.”

Good Communication Paves the Way

Look for an open door approach to discussing issues as they arise, along with regular private check-ins, recommends Clark. “This can take some doing when transitions are often in the company of the kids and don’t lend themselves easily to private conversations,” she says. “You want to make sure you will be supported and that the parents view you as an integral part of the parenting team.”

When learning the parenting styles and discipline structures of a family, make sure that you are clear about the parents’ expectations. “You will have to structure the kids to some degree and want to feel confident that you will handle expected and unexpected issues appropriately and with their support,” says Clark. “The more they can outline their parenting style, the more engaged the parents will be – remember that they will be your teammates and your bosses.”

Making a smooth transition for the children

As the nanny, you are a central figure in a child’s home environment, and children do not always have the mental capacity to understand that it is a job, says Clark. Do your best to make the transition smooth for the entire family.

“Kids need to feel that nannies love them, as their parents do, and choose to be with them,” says Clark. “Thus, having a nanny leave or start is a huge adjustment for kids and don’t take it personally.”

Just as you are adjusting to your new role, so are the children. “Your presence will also signal that another caregiver has left in one way or another, whether it is a parent who has gone back to work, or left, or a nanny who has left,” says Clark.

The turnaround is often immediate and as children cope with the loss, it will be your job to help them adjust. “Express empathy to the kids about how hard it can be and then keep it positive,” suggests Clark. “Tell them what you like about them and the fun things you are going to do together and share how excited you are to get to know them and be with them.”

Ice breakers can help all of you get to know each other better, too. Don’t be afraid to share information about yourself to connect with the family. “Maintain an upbeat attitude and focus on the positive whenever you can,” recommends Clark.

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Alicia H. Clark, PsyD