Divorce…Nannies…and Families

Divorce can be a painful experience for the parting spouses and their children . . . and their nanny.  Here are some of the trouble spots for nannies and how nannies can best handle them.

The Jealous Mother

The mother may accuse the nanny of stealing her children’s affections and/or the mother’s place in their lives.  This is particularly likely if the mother is the parent who leaves the family home in the wake of the divorce.  To address this matter, the nanny should reassure the mother that no one can take her (the mother’s) place in the children’s lives and hearts.  The nanny should arrange for opportunities for the children to nurture their relationships with both parents, such as making handmade I-Love-You/Thinking-of-You greeting cards.  The nanny should not discuss the mother’s feelings with the children unless she (the nanny) has permission from the mother to do so, as this may be seen by the mother as one more violation that she (the mother) has experienced at the hands of the nanny.

The Jealous Wife

The mother (who is also a wife) may accuse the nanny of engaging in an extramarital affair with her husband.   The nanny should calmly and directly assert her innocence and promptly avoid one-on-one contact with the husband.  While the husband may or may not be fostering the perception of an affair, it is best to err on the side of caution and ensure that a third party (i.e., the children or others) is always present when the husband and the nanny interact.  The nanny should not discuss the mother’s allegations with the children.

The Lonely Husband

The husband may miss domestic interaction with an adult female.  He may see the nanny as the perfect substitute for his now-absent wife.  After all, the nanny is in his home, attends to his children, and is already familiar to him.  The nanny should kindly but firmly draw a boundary for the husband by stating that she is there as a nanny only.  The nanny should further state that developing a more intimate relationship with the husband would be inappropriate.  If the husband continues to pursue the nanny, the nanny should ensure that a third party is always present when the husband and the nanny interact.  The nanny should not discuss this misguided affection with the children or their mother.

The Absentee Parents

During and immediately after a divorce, one or both parents may be preoccupied.  More may be asked of the nanny during this time.  Even with the best of work ethics, the nanny may not be able to be on call 24/7, and conflict may arise when the nanny cannot meet the increased demands placed upon her during and immediately after the divorce.  In this situation, the nanny must calmly and patiently tell the parents that she has been and will continue to be meeting as many of their requests as she reasonably can, but that she cannot reasonably be expected to be available 24/7.  The nanny should not discuss the increased work demands with the children.

The Emotive Parents

Throughout the divorce, one or both parents may have difficulty controlling their emotions.  They may be tearful one moment and angry the next.  They may lack patience and respond disproportionately to stressors.  They may take out their anger on their children and/or the nanny.  The nanny should not redirect the parental behavior; however, the nanny should comfort the children whenever they are the recipient of the parental anger.  In speaking with the children about the situation, the nanny should explain to the children that divorce is hard on parents, and ___parent___ probably didn’t mean to act angrily toward them.  While the nanny should not condone the parental anger, she should not criticize it either.  Instead, the nanny should focus on teaching the children empathy.

The Nanny as Confidante

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