Monday, February 11, 2013

Communicating with Your Nanny

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 – 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 your nanny:
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 use a log noting the pattern of the child’s day, 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 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 their immediate attention.  Launching into a topic without this kind of notice doesn’t promote communication.  Most nannies know if something of a serious nature relating to the children has occurred, they should call or email you as soon as possible so that when you arrive home you know what’s happened.  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.  Encourage your nanny to send a quick email, text or photo message to you at work with those happy moments they long to share with you.  By promoting positive exchanges you are 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 meeting with your nanny 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.   Remember we have a Performance Review Form that can be used for these formal meetings.
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 – your nanny is not a mind reader.  Giving concrete examples can be helpful in illustrating your point.  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 meeting to discuss progress.
5) Good Listening Skills
            Being an empathetic listener is a valuable skill and goes a long way in communication with your nanny.  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 your 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 with your nanny before you meet with them or complete the Performance Review Form.  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.  Suggest that your nanny bring topics to the discussion that they want to cover as well. 
Effective communication skills are an asset worth developing – a life long skill.  Your nanny will appreciate the effort you make to keep lines of communication open.  Your children will benefit from the model you and the nanny provide for them

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