Hire The Right Nanny The First Time: Your Child’s Emotional Development Depends On It
A nanny has a broader level of responsibility than a babysitter, and requires different personality strengths.
This is an open letter to any family hiring a nanny. Taking the time to find and hire the right nanny the first time is an investment in your child’s future. Unlike a babysitter, who entertains a child for a few hours on an occasional basis, a nanny typically comes to your home on a regular basis for 20 or more hours per week. She has a much broader role and level of responsibility than a babysitter. A good nanny actively contributes to your child’s ongoing healthy development through initiating stimulating activities, encouraging learning, providing healthy meals, maintaining your child’s schedule, keeping your child safe, giving plenty of warmth, love and attention, modeling appropriate behaviors and manners, setting appropriate limits AND forming a stable, lasting relationship with your child and family. This last, important responsibility is sometimes underestimated when a family is searching for the right nanny. A very good nanny usually possesses a higher level of commitment, experience and maturity than a good babysitter.
Especially in our current economic environment, many nanny job candidates do not have the right personality traits to excel in a nanny position over the long-term.
The above responsibilities require a certain type of personality. You can use a valid nanny personality screen to determine how closely a candidate matches the proven personality profile of an excellent nanny: one who has the personality traits necessary to provide the level of care described above for your child, day-in and day-out, over the long-term. Not everyone is cut-out to be a good nanny, and many people seeking nanny jobs are not genuinely stimulated by caring for children on an ongoing basis. Or, they may truly love children, and enjoy the job for several months, but have the type of personality that thrives on frequent change or personal drama. Young children require consistency and predictability. A good caregiver should have the type of personality to serve as a stable backdrop to the child’s ups and downs as he negotiates his various developmental stages.
Your child learns about trust through forming stable, long-term relationships with his parents and caregivers.
During the early years, your child is learning about trust, stability, and whether the world is safe and predictable. He’s learning whether it’s safe to form emotional attachments to people in his life. A healthy, long-term relationship with a nanny provides a wonderful opportunity for your child to broaden his capacity to love and trust. A thorough hiring process that includes personality screening (not just a background check), careful reference checking and professional interviewing helps. Once you bring a great nanny into your home, make sure the pay and work environment are attractive enough to keep her there.
The optimal outcome for your child’s development when employing a full-time nanny is that she remain with the family from infancy until preschool. At preschool, a child branches out and forms new attachments. The nanny takes on a less important role, although she is still important in his life. If you’re going to change nannies or switch to a part-time nanny, this is a good time to do it.
If Your Nanny Leaves
In some cases a nanny just doesn’t work out. If your nanny leaves, your child is likely to be impacted more than anyone else. He probably doesn’t have the verbal skills or psychological sophistication to explain how the change affects him emotionally.
The effect on a child of losing a nanny depends on such factors as the child’s personality, age, the quality of the bond between the nanny and child, the amount of time they spent together, the quality of bonds with other family members, the overall stability in the child’s life, and the way a nanny’s departure is handled. Young children tend to have a limited understanding of others and an inflated view of their own power. A child may blame himself for his nanny’s departure without a parent realizing it. In general, frequent nanny changes could contribute to a child regarding relationships as transient, potentially affecting his or her willingness to trust.
If and when you no longer need your nanny, encourage her to maintain contact with your child. Most nannies wholeheartedly welcome this. Occasional phone calls and outings are good ways for your child to learn that important people really do remain in her life. Quality, long-term bonds help your child develop the confidence she needs to risk giving and receiving love from others as she progresses into adulthood.
Ann Wycoff, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in San Diego, California. She is founder of Safe and Sound Nannies, a full service agency, and TheNannyAnswer.com, an online website that provides nanny screening tools for families. She also provides nanny hiring consultation to families in all cities who would like to user her professional advice and hiring tools. She has been screening and placing nannies since 1998.
For more information on how to find, screen and keep a great nanny, visit Dr. Wycoff’s full service agency website at http://www.safeandsoundnannies.com