Friday, October 4, 2013

Advice on Communication

This article comes from the International Nanny Association (INA) recent newsletter. The current Nanny of the Year, Joanne Barrow, writes some practical advice on communication. For more information about INA please visit

Effective Communication
By Joanne Barrow, 2013 INA Nanny of the Year
Joanne Barrow
For those of us caring for school age children the early September bedlam of back to school nights, meet the teacher, activity registration and getting back in the swing of homework is starting to settle down and find its groove again. As the families (and your own) routine begin to normalize now’s a great time to suggest a quiet meeting with your employers to plan and review schedules, give and receive feedback, discuss any changes that have taken place over the summer and reassess theirs, and your own needs moving forward.

One of the most important factors in the success and stability of my career has been direct, open and honest communication. Relationships with our families are personal and intimate and like any close connection it requires open, ongoing dialogue. As I read the blogs and group discussions in Nanny world it seems the
number 1 breakdown (in otherwise) great working relationships is the difficulty we have in addressing issues ‘head on’ with our employers. It’s imperative to air thoughts and observations openly and frequently before grievances begin to
fester. It doesn’t have to be daunting and once you get in the swing of things it’ll become second nature and something you may even come to look forward to. 

Here are a few steps that have helped me navigate these conversations.
  • Be professional- Focus on being constructive, not critical and keep emotions to a minimum.
  • Start on a positive note- Perhaps a brief synopsis of the kids latest strides and accomplishments.
  • Come prepared- Write down in advance the points you need to cover in the time frame you have. Know your objectives and direct the pace of the conversation so you don’t run out of time.
  • Bringing up a problem? Bring a solution….or two! Be proactive and offer up solutions or ‘give and take’ ideas that will work for everyone involved.
  • Don’t be intimidated- Some subjects are more difficult to discuss than others; for me money has always been my least favorite topic. Preface difficult issues by saying, ‘I feel a little awkward mentioning/ asking this but…. its important for the children/ its been on my mind / it’s necessary for us to clarify’ etc.… 
  • Don’t be defensive- Do you close up like a clam the second you receive criticism- constructive or otherwise? Take a moment before you respond and attempt to see the issue through their eyes as parents. If you can do that, you’ll likely find a way to adapt that will make them more comfortable. Long term success with our families is all about flexibility and understanding.
  • End the way you began- on a positive note! Thank them for their time and remind them you’re there to
    help and always open to suggestions and constructive advice.
Start this new school year as you mean to go on, talk it out before you walk out. And finally…Don’t wait until there’s a problem, request a monthly meeting with your employers, the better the lines of communication the stronger your relationship and position will remain.
Good Luck!

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