“I WANT MY MAMA!” We’ve all been there- watching your nanny kiddos meltdown because they miss their parents. How can we best support our charges, both beforehand and in the moment, when they’re missing their parents?
Here are my 5 tools to help nanny kids when they miss their parent or caregiver.
Don’t Take it Personally
My biggest tip here is that you simply cannot take it personally. Sure, it’s hard not to think, “but don’t you love me, too?” or “We’re having so much fun! I’m a great nanny! Why are they crying for Dada now?” You just cannot take it personally when nanny kiddos miss their parents. It’s no deficit or anything you’re doing wrong. We want children to be securely attached to their parents! It’s typical that children are attached to their family, and they will have moments, especially at hand-offs, where they are sad and longing to be back with their mom, dad, grandma or whomever else cares for them. Taking it personally will not help either of you, so keep reminding yourself that you are a great caregiver and find your empathy. I’m 33, and I still miss my parents who live halfway across the country!
Plan with Parents
Have a plan with your nanny family about when and how you can reach out to them during the day. I’ve worked with families who have very busy professional days, and we can’t contact them unless it’s an emergency. I’ve also worked for families who have lots of flexibility during the day and are happy to get texts, pictures, videos, or even FaceTime during the working day, if the kiddos are missing them. Have a chat with the family to establish what methods work and when are good times to reach out to them. I nannied for a child who loved to use my phone and pick out specific emojis to send to their mom to convey their message. I’ve recorded videos of kiddos telling their parents what they’re looking forward to when they see them next. Having a plan ahead of time will help in the moment, so you won’t be scrambling and debating on what to do next.
Validate & Redirect
“You miss Grandma so much! She had to go to work today, and you’re thinking about her and missing her. Being with Grandma is so fun. I know it’s hard buddy. I bet she’s thinking about you, too! Remember, Grandma always comes home at 5 o’clock.”
After you’ve validated their feelings, then you can redirect them to an activity. The key here is that we’re not just distracting them. We validate and talk about those feelings first (“name it to frame it,” as Dr. Siegel says), then redirect them to an activity. Make different suggestions so your charge can choose, giving them a bit of control. You can suggest an activity related to those big feelings – maybe drawing a picture together of your nanny kiddo and Grandma back together could be fun & helpful, but give options of other things too, maybe a favorite board game or blocks.
Use Books & Songs
There are so many great children’s books for kiddos who miss their families! Check out:
- “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn
- “Llama Llama Misses Mama” by Anna Dewdney
- “Just Me and My Babysitter” by Mercer Mayer
- “Nanny and Me” by Florence Romano
Encourage Parents to Establish a Good-Bye Routine
Saying good-bye to their parents at the beginning of the day can be really hard on a young child, and it can be a challenging way to start the day as the nanny. I know it’s hard for parents to leave when their children are upset, but drawing it out can make it even harder on everyone. Encourage your nanny family to establish a routine, so good-bye always looks the same and your charge will know what to expect. Here are some ideas to include in a good-bye routine:
- A big hug
- A reminder that “I’ll always come home!”
- A funny rhyme, like “See you later, Excavator!” or “Blow a kiss, little fish!”
- A special handshake that’s only for the good-bye routine
- Having the child gently push the parent out the door
One result from the Covid-19 pandemic is many more parents now working from home full-time, sharing their home with a nanny and their children. This can be a really challenging dynamic for everyone, but can also be harmonious if done well. Work together with your nanny parents to establish boundaries that work for everyone. If your mom boss runs downstairs to jump in every time they hear their child cry, it’s going to make it difficult to do your job well. If your dad boss is in and out of his office over and over to refill his coffee cup, leading to your charge seeing him & crying each time, that’s also going to make it difficult to do your job well! With older children who know their parents are home, you can run into a situation where they are shopping for answers from different adults.
Consider establishing guidelines like asking that office doors stay shut, and requesting that the parents text you a head’s up before they come out so you can move your nanny kiddo to a different spot while they’re in the shared area. For example, suggest to your family that nobody needs to come assist if your charge is crying unless you text and ask for back-up. Suggest specific times during the day where parents can come hang-out without disrupting your routine. Maybe everyone eats lunch together each day. Remind parents that you know they love their children, and that it makes your day & their kiddo’s day harder when they are in and out sporadically, adding many extra good-byes to the day. It absolutely can work out to share a home with WFH parents, as long as you’re communicative and ask for what you need. It’s a delicate balance, having someone’s home be your professional workspace and having parents who adore their children and understandably want to see them during the day. Remember that you’re a team, and each party wants what’s best for the child here.
How do you best prepare for and support your nanny kiddos when they are missing their parents and families? Share your tips and experiences below!