Monday, March 12, 2012

Communication Tips for Families and Nannies

Whether the job is going well or there are issues, good communication is essential between the employer and the nanny.  Obviously it’s much easier to communicate all the positives – how much you appreciate them, how the children enjoy them, how good it feels to leave the house knowing all is well, how much you enjoy your job, how great the family is, the latest fun activity or humorous comment from one of the children – these are the kind of comments that are easy to share.  It’s when there are issues that the need for effective open communication skills is essential.
Avoiding conversations about issues of concern is not a good approach.  Nothing can change in a situation unless dialogue is begun.  Nannies are great at teaching these concepts to the children in their care, but not always the best at communicating with their employers.  Certainly the personal nature of a nanny position is part of the challenge.  Employers often need to open that door.
Consider the following tips in effective communication with each other:

1) Communicate Daily
            Whether you connect at the start of the day or an update at the end, it’s helpful to make a daily contact.  Many nannies and families use a log noting the pattern of the child’s day or night, but making the effort to have a short conversation can go a long way to keeping the communication flowing.  Keep this connection light – this isn’t the time for an in-depth conversation.

2) Timing is Everything
            While a light chat at the end of the day is nice for touching base, it isn’t always the best time for a serious topic.  Let your nanny or family know you would like to talk, the subject matter, and offer options on a good time for a discussion.  If it’s a child related situation that you feel needs immediate attention you should ask, “Is this a good time to discuss . . . ?”  Then they will know you have something that needs immediate attention to talk over.  Launching into a topic without this kind of notice doesn’t promote communication. Never discuss issues in front of the children.
            Nannies like to keep parents informed of all things happening throughout the day.  Keeping a daily log is a great idea – logs can include all the aspects of the day’s events and activities, the child’s basic needs, their mood and other notations.  Families can also use this log make notes about the evening hours, bedtime and any other important information. Parents can encourage the nanny to send a quick email, text or photo message to them at work with those happy moments they long to share.  By promoting positive exchanges everyone is keeping the door open for the more challenging conversations that may come up.

3) Periodic Meetings
            It is a good idea to set a plan for meetings periodically – perhaps after the first 30 to 60 days, 6 month, year anniversary, and at least yearly thereafter.  This time should be set aside to discuss all aspects of how the job is going, any concerns or challenges, and set goals.  It is best to meet away from the house if possible and definitely at a time when children are not present.   Nannies from the Heartland provides an excellent resourse for families and nannies working with our service to be used during a performance review.

4) Balanced Approach
            Starting a conversation can be challenging, especially if there is an issue that needs attention.  Beginning with some positive comments can help ease into more serious matters.  Then be clear and direct about concerns – none of us are mind readers.  Giving concrete examples can be helpful in illustrating points.  Then listen to responses and reactions.  Be prepared with options and ready to problem solve together.  Set new goals which may include another follow up meetings to discuss progress.

5) Good Listening Skills
            Being an empathetic listener is a valuable skill and goes a long way in communication.  Try not to react or be defensive, really think about what they are saying so that your response will be thoughtful and appropriate. There are times when sensitive topics need to be discussed and supportive listening skills will help ease negative feelings that may arise.  

6) Be Prepared
            It is a good idea to write down topics you wish to discuss before meeting or complete the Performance Review Form, provided by Nannies from the Heartland to client families and nannies.  Make sure to note examples and have some suggestions ready for options to consider.  Also, if you want to bring up areas for compromise or negotiation, have those ideas prepared as well.  Then as you meet you’ll have your notes to refer to.  Some nannies feel intimidated in these formal meeting settings; their skill sets are in nurturing and guiding children, not in business. Parents may suggest that their nanny bring topics to the discussion that they want to cover as well.  Taking notes while discussing issues can help ease tension and are a good source of information after the meeting is over

Effective communication skills are an asset worth developing – a life long skill.  Nannies and employers appreciate the efforts made to keep lines of communication open.  The children will benefit from the model parents and the nanny provide for them.

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