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100 Tips for Nannies and Families

The advice in this book comes from Candi Wingate, President of Nannies4hire.com.
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How to Break the Ice with the Children in Your Care

First, congratulations on your new job!  May your employment be enduring and endearing.  Now that you’ve landed that great nanny job that you’ve been seeking, how do you break the ice with the children in your care?

  • Communicate with the children on their level.  Kneel down if need be to look at the children eye-to-eye.
  • Call the children by name.
  • Ask the children lots of non-judgmental questions.  Get to know the children as the unique individuals that they are.  What are their likes?  Dislikes?  Fears?  Dreams?  Hobbies?  Skills?  How was their day?  What went well?  What were their struggles?  How do they feel about their day?  Accept their answers without criticism; share their happiness and comfort them in their sadness.  Praise and validate who they are.  Reinforce your praise and validation with appropriate touch:  a pat on the back, a gentle hug, the tousling of a head, etc.
  • Include the children in your conversations with others; do not make them feel extraneous or overlooked.  For example, if you are visiting with the parents of your employer-family, and the mother tells you that she is looking forward to the weekend because she just had a rough day at work, you can say, “I know the children are looking forward to the weekend too because they have some fun activities that they’re hoping to do with you on Saturday.  Do you children want to tell your mom what you would like to do?”
  • Listen more than you speak.
  • Exercise prudence in over- or under-regulating the children.  While under-regulating the children may, in the short-term, foster bonding between you and the children, both too many and too few rules can ultimately harm your relationship with the children.
  • Focus on the children’s long-term well-being.  Ensure that they understand the basis of your decision-making by articulating your reasoning.  For example, you may say, “I would love to let you stay up late tonight.  I loved our bedtime chat last night and would love to do that even longer tonight.  Still, you need to be alert at school tomorrow because you want to be an astronaut when you grow up, and you need to be smart and study hard to get to be an astronaut.  It’s my job to help you grow up to be all that you can be, so I think we need to keep our regular bedtime tonight.  Ok?”
  • Give the children voice in their outcomes.  What would they like to do this afternoon?  What would they like to eat?
  • Initiate activities that you know the children will like.  For example, if the youngest child likes to be outside, playing or doing something physically active, you can take the children on a nature hike in a beautiful park.  If the pre-pubescent child likes shopping, you can take the children on a “window-shopping” trip to the mall.  You can even designate days for each child’s unique interests.  For example, if there are three children in your care, Monday can be Johnny-day , Tuesday can be Katie-day, Wednesday can be Patty-day, Thursday can be parents’ day, and Friday can be nanny’s day.  Each child will have his/her own day for doing what s/he likes.  Each child will also have days when s/he will participate in the activities of interest to his/her siblings.  Then, of course, there will be two days at the end of the week in which the parents and you will get to choose activities that you believe will be educational and entertaining for the children.
  • Carry fun things to do with you at all times.  Stuffed animals, a deck of cards, or hand-held (pocket-sized) electronic games can be invaluable.
  • Play games and engage in activities that are intended to elicit laughter.  Pictionary, Mad Gab, and other games are often giggle-inspiring.  Hide-and-seek, charades, and story-telling are activities that often prompt laughter.
  • Ask the children for help.  Most kids love to help adults.  For example, you may say, “Sammie, you are so mature and responsible!  What a great older brother you are!  You are my go-to guy for help when your twin siblings both cry.  Would you help me cuddle and comfort the twins when they both cry at the same time?”
  • Do not be afraid to be goofy (for entertainment purposes) or fallible (for purpose of seeking help as noted above).
  • Keep the children’s routine as consistent as possible relative to the routine that they were used to prior to your employment start date.  After the ice is broken, you can then seek their support (and their parents’ support) for changing their routine if you think such is warranted.

By following the tips above, you can break the ice with the children in your care.  And, again, congratulations on your new nanny job!  You will do great!

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