Expanding your child’s circle of care is a big decision and the changes that will come with it will require adjustments to be made by all. It’s also something that necessitates careful consideration, clear ground-laying and keeping the lines of communication easy and open. From turning Nanna into sometimes-nanny to forging a relationship with daycare staff, here’s how to go about things…
You need to feel that your child will be secure and happy in the hands of those caring for him. How confident you are leaving your little one with a nanny, daycare worker, babysitter, grandparent or other family member is a key factor in choosing the right carers and will depend on the relationship you already have or are able to create with these people.
Some options may involve a bit of a trade-off. Nanna and Pop may be inexpensive but need to be tactfully updated on modern techniques. The daycare-centre worker may be professionally trained but unable to give individual attention all day. Thinking about the age, stage and needs of your child and what’s in his best interests is the best starting point.
Getting to know you
It’s important that you feel comfortable and relaxed with carers, as this will help your child feel the same way and help trust develop between all of you. Take the time to get to know a new carer – if they aren’t already, they could soon become part of the family!
A professional nanny or babysitting service should match a carer with a family’s needs and values. Interview strangers or those you don’t know well to get a feel for what they bring to your family. Observe prospective carers interact with your child and notice how open they are to your ideas and requests.
All the adults who have regular contact with your little one have the potential to influence him, so it’s important your values are in line. Discuss issues relevant to your child: what are your philosophies, routines and techniques around settling and soothing, feeding and bedtimes? How might the carer keep your child entertained? Manage a crisis? Children are highly sensitive to negative comments, so be aware how a carer would deal with challenging behaviour – would she criticise your child or teach him a better way? Older children can be involved in some of these discussions, so they feel included in the process and can offer up their own requests. This can make for a smoother transition.
Aim to keep the lines of communication open. As your child grows, you need to be clear about your expectations, ideas and preferences
and be able to talk about sensitive topics so everyone is on the same page. Openness and honesty are vital. If you have a funny bedtime ritual that’s a bit embarrassing for you, but is something your child just loves, share it with his carer so your littlie doesn’t miss out.
Likewise, share any challenges – experienced carers can have a wealth of know-how to tap into! The relationship your child has with other carers can influence his self-esteem, so it’s important these people have respectful attitudes, support your child’s uniqueness and are able to communicate positively. Children model themselves on close adults, so when you find a good carer, it’s a great relationship to maintain – for all of you!
ELLY TAYLOR is a relationship counsellor and writer. She created a support website for parents parentsupportonline.com and her new book, Becoming Us: Loving, Learning and Growing Together – the Essential Relationship Guide for Parents, was released in July, 2011.