Is good help really so hard to find these days? Here’s how to bring out the best in your child’s caregiver – by giving your best to the relationship.
Have you ever met someone who is 100% happy with their childcarer? Most parents have a little whinge from time to time about a perceived failing or shortcoming in their child’s caregiver, whether it’s something they didn’t do which you thought was a given, or something they did which you weren’t happy with. But all too often, a simple miscommunication or mismatch in expectations can be what escalates even the most benign situation into a real problem.
Your child’s caregiver is one of the most important people in their lives, so it’s critical to invest some time and effort into the relationship in order to ensure your child is receiving the kind of care you most want for them.
Here are some ways to bring out the best in your child’s caregiver.
A nanny’s primary responsibility is to care for your children, and everything else they might be able to do should be seen as a bonus, but not a requirement. If you want your nanny to do household chores, then these chores should be related to her care of your child, not just things you don’t feel like doing yourself. Sit down with your nanny and speak to her openly and honestly about what both of your expectations are, particularly around the time spent on childcare and on other tasks such as housework. A good rule is to expect that the house be left as she found it when she started the day.
As your nanny’s employer, you are responsible for her wellbeing at work. If your child gets sick, it’s wonderful that your nanny is able to care for them – but if your nanny then catches the stomach flu, don’t begrudge her the sick days she’ll need to recover. If your nanny is using her own car to transport your children, ensure that you pay her mileage, and provide her with appropriate carseats. If you’re going to be late home, call her to let her know, and if she can’t stay, respect that and have a back-up plan in place. Aim to be the kind of boss whom your nanny will brag about to her friends, not one she’ll complain about.
An au pair is a live-in childcare option embraced by Kiwi families nationwide, many of whom go on to form special and lasting relationships with their au pair. For many au pairs, it is their first experience being away from home for an extended time, so keep in mind that your au pair may be homesick, and be compassionate as the au pair adjusts to an unfamiliar culture. Talking to the au pair about their homeland and encouraging them to share their language, foods and traditions with your family can help the au pair to feel accepted and work through feelings of being a stranger in a foreign land.
Although au pairs live in your home and are included in your mealtimes and family activities, it’s crucial to put boundaries in place so your au pair has breathing space and down time – which should be sacred. If you need to adjust your au pair’s hours, talk to them about this, don’t just make the change and expect them to deal with it. Remember that you and your au pair have to live together – so it’s in your best interests to keep things pleasant and the lines of communication open.
Many parents love the idea of their child being cared for in a home setting, and appreciate the close bond that forms between an in-home caregiver and her charges. But it’s important to remember that your child is being looked after in the caregiver’s home, and that while the caregiver may love your child, they also deserve personal space, privacy, and respect of their family time. It’s hard enough getting dinner on the table and homework done when you’ve only got your own children in the house; keep this in mind when you’re picking up your child at 6pm and the caregiver has one eye on the stove and another eye on the fussy toddler who’s headed for a witching-hour meltdown.
In-home care offers your child the opportunity to be part of a family during the day – and this means that your child will be also part of the caregiver’s daily routine, which sometimes includes things like going to the supermarket, waiting in the queue at the post office, and hanging out in the car at school pickup.
Take time to talk to your child’s caregiver about what kinds of activities they’ll be doing with your child, and if you can afford it, reassure them that you are willing to pay for “extras” like occasional trips to the zoo, gold-coin donation to play groups, or admission to local events – the kinds of things you’d take your child to if you were looking after them.
Childcare centres are more clear about their expectations for you and your family – what times to drop off and pick up your child, how much the fees will cost and when they’re due, what you can and can’t pack in your child’s lunchbox, and so on. But what about your expectations for the daycare? This is an area where parents need to be more communicative, as it’s critical that the philosophy of the daycare centre matches your vision of care for your child. Some daycare centres are academia-based and focused on preparing children for entering school, while others are play-focused and may place more emphasis on learning through exploration. What kind of environment do you want for your child? Talk candidly with the manager and teachers at your child’s daycare about the ways in which they encourage children to grow and learn, and be honest about how this fits with your personal ideas about your child’s care.
Above all, pay attention to how happy your child is in their care situation. If your child is happy, healthy, and well looked after, then your caregiver is doing a great job, and this will bring out the best in your child.
By Katherine Granich