In With the New: Changing Caregivers

How to help your child adjust to a new sitter, nanny, or day care

girl smiling with two women

Whether your nanny leaves for another position, you make the switch to day care, or a new babysitter takes over for the summer, there's a good chance that your child will experience a transition in care at some point. Change doesn?t come easy and can be especially challenging for young children. Here are some tips to keep in mind and make for a smooth transition.  

Tips for transitioning to a new nanny or babysitter

  • If your child is very attached to your current babysitter or nanny, give him as much notice as possible that a new person will be taking over the caregiver role. [If your current sitter would like to visit the children in the future and you're okay with it, you can mention this to your kids during the transition.]
  • If your child is old enough, let him or her take part in the selection process of choosing the new nanny. Ask your child for his or her opinion; include the child to be a part of the interview.
  • If at all possible, have your new sitter meet your child or children prior to the current caregiver's departure; this will make the transition easier on everyone.
  • For the first few days, spend a few hours with your kids and the new nanny to ease them into the relationship and also to guide your caregiver in terms of suggested methods of discipline, house rules, safety, meals, nap times, regular routines, etc.
  • Let your child know that he or she will do some of the same fun things with the new nanny, but that the new nanny is her own person with a different personality, which he may find equally surprising and loveable.
  • Plan exciting activities with the new nanny so that she is able to engage your child and bond with him over a fun experience say, having a picnic at the park or going grocery shopping to buy a special treat.
  • Either you or your current caregiver may want to introduce the new sitter to your child's neighborhood friends and their parents or caregivers.

Tips for transitioning from your sitter or nanny to day care

  • If your child is very attached to her nanny or babysitter, try to organize monthly or bi-monthly get-togethers to maintain the relationship.
  • Visit the school or daycare in advance. Also go for a tour and meet the teacher(s) if possible.
  • Find other kids in the neighborhood who will be attending the same school or daycare and see if you can carpool or walk together. Try arranging a play date so the kids can meet each other.
  • Ask your caregiver to speak enthusiastically about going to the new school.
  • Bring your child shopping for "supplies". A knapsack, pencil case, new books or a special outfit can make a potentially scary experience more exciting.
  • If your child's in a half-day (or even a full-day) school or daycare, you may want to ask your current caregiver to babysit one afternoon or evening each week to maintain the relationship.
  • If your child has a special stuffed animal or blanket, ask the school if she can bring it with her for added comfort.

Tips for transitioning from day care to a nanny or babysitter

  • Ask nanny candidates to meet your child prior to hiring them. You'll likely want to see how they interact with kids and with your children in particular.
  • If your child is old enough, you may want to ask him which candidate he prefers and why. Children can be remarkably savvy and insightful.
  • If your child has friends at her daycare, be sure to keep having play dates with them!
  • Search out families in your neighborhood with similar-aged kids; if those families employ a nanny or sitter, they may be interested in a regular playgroup with caregivers and kids.
  • Work with your new nanny to arrange interesting and fun activities for your children. This is especially important at the beginning for your kids and new caregiver to bond.

If your child doesn't seem to adapt to the new situation after a few weeks, consult your pediatrician for advice. Some kids need a little extra help dealing with their fear of change. If your child is eating and sleeping well, making new friends, and seems content, then they've made the transition well. If not, don't wait to get some help. With the right support during the transition, you child will soon be comfortable with the new arrangement.

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