Bye-Bye Nanny: How to Handle the Nanny-Child Separation
Amanda May Dundas, Contributor
Articles> Bye-Bye Nanny: How to Handle the Nanny-Child Separation
little girl and nanny smiling

When Kathryn and Dominick von Jan moved upstate from Brooklyn, NY, it meant parting with their beloved nanny of 5 years.  "Excited as we were for our move, it was devastating to say goodbye to our wonderful nanny, especially for our daughter and son," explains Kathryn.  "And I know our nanny was also really upset."  So it was no surprise when the couple received a call from the nanny a few months after their move, asking if she could come visit them for a weekend.  "We loved the idea but wasn't sure how it would work," she says.  "Was she a houseguest, that we should entertain, or would she want time alone with my kids?  And if we went out to give her time alone with them, should we pay her?"

When the working relationship with a nanny ends, developing a new type of relationship can be confusing for both employer and employee.  But that doesn't mean you should avoid it, says psychotherapist Robi Ludwig, Psy.D. and Care.com's resident parenting expert.  "When you hire a nanny they become part of the family, and to just sever ties seems very severe, especially to a child who probably loves this person," she says.  "Maintaining the relationship gives the child a sense of continuity and lets them know that this person will still be in their life, even if not in the same way."

Most nannies pride themselves on maintaining relationships with the children they've cared for, says Ludwig, who suggests having a frank conversation with your nanny about the ways you'd like to keep in touch.  "Many parents invite former nannies to birthday parties, or set up special one-on-one dates," she says.  "Older children can maintain the relationship themselves through email or phone calls, but if your kids are younger and want to stay in touch you should facilitate their sending letters and pictures."

How Children Handle the Nanny Transition

Before the age of three, most kids won't have too much trouble adjusting to losing a nanny, says Ludwig, adding that kids this age may let the relationship taper off naturally.  After three, the transition gets trickier.  "If your child shows signs of withdrawal - if he seems sad, talks about the nanny a lot, or has trouble adjusting to a new nanny - he may not be transitioning well," she says.  "It's important to talk to your child about his feelings, and let him know that it's okay to miss his nanny, but that it's also okay to have fun with a new nanny."

The key to a successful transition is making sure your child understands what is going on, says Ludwig.  Sit down and explain, as much as possible, why the nanny is leaving.  If the parting is amicable and you're not moving too far away, explain that they'll still be able to see the nanny although not as frequently.  "Let them know that even though the nanny may not be in their lives in the same daily way, they can still be a part of each other's lives," says Ludwig.  "If you're moving, explain that you can still keep in touch through letters or email, or when you come back to visit."  Most importantly, says Ludwig, make sure your child knows he didn't do anything wrong. 

Sometimes families have falling outs with their nanny and the goodbye is more, well, permanent.  "With younger kids, you don't want to tell them more than they can handle," says Ludwig.  "You can be vague and say that the nanny had to move on, making sure that your children know it had nothing to do with them."  Kids who are five and older can handle more of the truth.  "Explain that the nanny behaved in a way that made you uncomfortable," says Ludwig.  "Older kids understand that."

Paying for Visits

For many parents, including the von Jans, the question is whether to pay your nanny for the time spent alone with their children.  "If you're asking your former nanny to babysit then yes, you should pay her," Ludwig says.  "But otherwise it's a personal relationship, one that your nanny is choosing to continue on her own personal time, and you shouldn't pay her, even if you're the one who suggested the visit."  Most nannies love staying connected with the children that they've cared for, and some maintain the relationship long past childhood.  Still, if your nanny is taking time out of her schedule, or incurring expensive commuting costs, it's nice to acknowledge how much it means to you by giving her spending money to take your child out somewhere special, says Ludwig.

Mrs. von Jan and her husband wound up inviting her nanny for the weekend, and asking her how she wanted to spend her time.  "She said she wanted to spend a lot of time with the kids because she missed them, and told us to feel free to go out and run errands or go to dinner," she says.  "We definitely gave her a lot of time alone with the kids, but then also made sure she had time to relax in her room and unwind, so she would feel like she really got a weekend away."  The visit was such a success that their nanny has plans to come back in a few months.

"Maintaining a relationship with a former nanny isn't a must," says Ludwig, adding that most kids are resilient enough to handle losing a nanny.  "But if you really love her, and your kids love her, it's wonderful to continue the relationship, and transition it from a working relationship to more of a family one."

 

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(20) Comments
Monica
Monica
Our nanny left after 7 years. I had kept her on for another couple of years after she had her first child although she kept bringing the baby / toddler with her without prior agreement and seemed to spend most of her time looking after her own child, always left at least half an hour early and sometimes did not even clean up her own child's mess properly. Then she became pregnant again and decided to leave. She initially texted about a visit, then kept putting it off and then never responded to my last two texts. I was very disappointed that after so much time she had so little regard for my child and overall it ended up a very negative experience. My husband had thought she was just there for the money after she had the first baby and was no longer interested in caring for my daughter and wanted to terminate her a year ago and I would not let him - unfortunately he turned out to be right. My view is now that I would not hire a nanny for more than a couple of years as the child becomes too attached and the nannies sometimes manipulate this attachment to keep the job.
April 15, 2014 at 6:43 PM
Wendy
Wendy
I need advise from nannies. We have had ours since youngest was 18 months, oldest was 3. Duties are 4 hrs a day for pickup , after school care and dinner/ready to bed routine. They are now 7.5 yrs and almost 5 with the youngest starting Kindergarten next year. We are at the point where we feel we can now handle duties based on age now, career stability and wanting to save $$. We are her main source of "solid" income. How best to handle our intentions? I want to give her time to find more work and would be happy to give great reference but what would you see as best approach if it happened to you??
March 19, 2014 at 8:41 PM
DonnaG
DonnaG
Hi all,
I'm looking for some help. I have just started a new position looking after 2 boys, 6 and 8. Their previous nanny is gone on maternity leave and the 6 year old does not seem to be coping very well. He is causing trouble at school and also at home for me and both his parents. I have tried explaining that his previous nanny is only gone to have her baby and that she will be back in a few months and that he will still see her etc. She has cared for him since he was a baby so he was very attached to her. I have talked about his feelings etc with him but no difference, he just seems to be getting worse. Any suggestions on how else to make it easier on him? I have taken him out, spent loads of 1 on 1 time with him. I am really starting to worry as I do not want his schoolwork to suffer.
March 7, 2014 at 8:16 AM
Rita J.
Rita J.
I am leaving my nanny job of about 14 months as they need full time care and I can only do 2 days due to back issues. I love the baby I have taken care of and hope I can still be part of her life. I know she will forget me, but she will always be in my heart forever. A wonderful family and sweet baby girl
July 27, 2013 at 2:44 PM
Aimee W
Aimee W
In December 2012 I had to "say goodbye" to 2 beautiful boys I had been looking after for 2.5 years. Today marks the 3 year "anniversary" of the day I met them when they were just 1 and 3 years old.
I am lucky enough to still get to see the boys on a regular basis (at least once a month at the moment) though that may change as I think they may be going to England to live for a while.
The thing I struggle with most now, is not having a word or name for what I am to them. I was their nanny, and I occasionally care for them for a couple of hours every now and again. But what AM I to them? Their ex-nanny? I HATE that there's no word for it. They respect the relationship I have with the boys, but sometimes I feel like I need a title. I am not lucky enough to be related to them, I have not been acknowledged as a friend. So it's just hard to know where I stand... Sometimes I feel like they don't understand or think about how I feel about the boys, and how much I do love them...
April 27, 2013 at 5:45 AM
Sarah B.
Sarah B.
I have been nannying for a family for over a year since the twins were 6 weeks old. There are now 15 months old and they will be going to daycare starting in August or September because they need social interaction with other kids. I knew coming into the job that this was going to happen, but its so sad to think about and it's still 3 months away. The kids love me think of my as a second mommy say the 5 year old. I will miss them so much. I'm hoping to find another job taking care of twins because I feel I am great with them and love it.
April 12, 2013 at 11:58 AM
Davina H.
Davina H.
Amy I went thru some similar to what you went thru. It is aweful. I have maintained contact with other children I have nannied for. One is 21 and the other is 17. Maybe it is just parents insecurities. I personally think it is sadistic to both the child as well as the caregiver. In my case my mom had to have her lung removed and I had to leave suddenly. The mother told me I should have been more prepared. You can not prepare for cancer. They have to do a lot of testing in order to see if surgery is possible and things change from day to day, that quickly. So to be told I should have been more thoughtful and prepared really hurt. I was told to just take the summer off and then come back. Things went downhill fast. After being told every day for 6 years I love you by the mom, it really hurts. I still think and dream of them often..miss them terribly. I am the same person I was for 6 years while I was with them. Sad I wish I could do something to see them again, but they won't talk to me. I am sorry and I wish I could change things, I am not a perfect person, but why not agree to dissagree and see the kids? It is not the kids fault.
February 25, 2013 at 7:07 AM
Nicole P.
Nicole P.
i am a new nanny i will have to leave the kids i care for in 2 weeks because i allready had a summer job lined up when i was asked by this family ive been here a week and i already care about these kids in fact i spent my money on a birthday present for the one year old today nannys want to see children paid or not i was of the clock tonight and still had cake with the family i hope to come back when the summer is over i love it here
May 29, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Amy K.
Amy K.
8 weeks ago I left my job with a family that I had been with for just over 5 yrs, since their son was 2 and their daughter was newborn. I worked for them for most of those years an average of 55-60 hrs a week with lots of overnights, most weekends at least once if not the entire weekend, and sleep overs at my house regularly. As the years went on I developed a challenging relationship with the 7 year old, he was just very very difficult, and I had begged the parents to help me with his behavior issues dozens of times throughout the past 3 yrs or so. I was basically left alone having to handle this child and grew to resent the situation and, unfortunately, him as well. I had an incredible, mother-daughter type relationship with the daughter. I easily spent more time with her during the course of her whole life than either of the parents, and in her mind I was interchangeable with mommy and preferred over daddy. I admit that my unbalanced relationship between the 2 children was not a healthy situation and that I was projecting my frustration over the parents lack of involvement onto the son. I wish they took at least a little responsibility for continually brushing my concerns aside and having an active role in cultivating the negative relationship. I read articles, books, spoke to specialists, all on my own time and often brought this information to their attention while providing a plan to implement behavioral changes and was often told that they didn't believe their was an issue, he was just really smart.
When this negative situation came to a head, I was devastated. I hired my own replacement because I didn't trust anyone else to watch "my kids" and it is working out beautifully with everyone involved. My friend who stepped into the position is wonderful and I trust her 100%. The hard thing is that I left under strained conditions and I have not really seen the children since I left. I thought it would be in the children's best interest to bow out and let them move on, specifically because it was NOT a amicable parting of ways, so their would always be tension. I have felt like I have been mourning the loss of my own child ever since. I have started and quit 4 jobs in 7 weeks because I can't open myself up to bond with another child, I feel too emotionally drained, but the daughter is feeling the loss. The truth of the matter is that she feels like she has lost a parent, I have been there since her birth, every single day, and she notices how long the time is between visits and feels powerless to reach out to me.
I don't know how to move forward. Mom and Dad are not particularly communicative people and, in fact, we never really discussed why I was leaving, how they felt about everything, or how my relationship with the kids would proceed so it is just awkward and kind of angry. I can't barely say the kids names without completely choking up and crying, which is SO not me. Through the last few months there have been a few tense texts sent between Mom and me, but nothing substantial and I don't know if I should have a conversation with the 5 year old girl about how I miss and love her to pieces and how I think about her every day, but she is getting older, about to enter kindergarten, and she has so many friends and activities that it might be hard for me to see her. How do I proceed? This is the very first and only position that I have every had in my 15 yrs as a nanny where things went so horribly wrong so I have nothing to draw upon.
May 26, 2012 at 2:27 AM
Bonnie L.
Bonnie L.
I was with a family for 4 yrs with 2 children and when they moved away
my husband and I were very depressed for awhile since we didn't have any
grandchildren. Also the parents said that the children also went through
a period of adjusting without me. I loved them like my own children and
it's tough leaving when you been with them since birth. I stayed at their
house most of the time but sometimes they came to my house. It's like
losing part of your family. You become very emotionally attached.
February 6, 2012 at 11:19 AM
Natalie R.
Natalie R.
I'm surprised at some of the bitter opinions toward nannies I see here.

I personally believe whether or not a caregiver wants to continue a relationship with the family depends on the parents more than anything else. I know when we moved from Chicago to Detroit, leaving our nanny was very difficult and we have had her visit as much as we can because we adored her, and made it clear that we considered her a member of our family.
February 4, 2012 at 3:01 PM
Rachel L.
Rachel L.
I love all of "my kids". Seriously I just can't imagine my life without them no matter where I'm working or who I am working for. Everyone of them has made some sort of important impression in my life. I committed myself to caring for them and once you care for someone, it's hard to just stop even if they paycheck does.

I am very active in all of "my kids" lives. Everything from school plays, dance recitals, the occasional "hey I'm coming to get you lets go get lunch". Or hanging out with the parents having a glass of wine and just talking while our kids play. It's hard to think someone can assume that I because I am a nanny don't care. The kids I nanny for still call me. I will always be available to them should they need me.

And no, my families NEVER have to pay me to hang out with their kids. If they specifically ask me to come babysit yes they pay me. But If I call them and say Id like to come over and hang out or take the kids somewhere special I do not expect them to compensate me in any way.

I still even keep in touch with the first kid I nannied for straight out of high school. He is 8 now and it's just mind blowing and wonderful to see him be so grown up. And there are times where he will get upset with his parents and he will call me and just vent. I love it. It's good to know that I made a lasting impression on them. That's why I do what I do and why I love doing it. I'm sure most nannies who really love their jobs would agree.
August 27, 2011 at 6:04 PM
Kayla G.
Kayla G.
i recently learned the family i work for decided it would be more economical for them to put there daughter in daycare ( they also wanted to have the opportunity for her to spend more time with other children).Although I am happy they have found something that will work out better for them I am devastated I have to find a new job.This is my first full time nanny position and although I knew I would become attached to there child I never dreamed I would become as attached as I have =(. So sad. I know the transition wont be too difficult for the little girl (she is under 1 yr) but the heart breaking thing is that she will probably forget who I am as she gets older. I want to stay in there lives but its difficult to do this when I am now moving on to a new family myself( and just wont have the time to pop over for visits) .nothing will be the same as spending almost every day.so im reduced to birthday partys and babysitting thisis way harder than I thought =(
August 12, 2011 at 12:48 PM
Danielle R.
Danielle R.
Gina, maybe it's because you changed nannies relatively often or just never found the right one. My nanny job is coming to an end after 3 years and I'm heartbroken, though happy to see them grow. I have already talked to the parents about me being able to take them to the movies or the zoo, etc. every once in a while. Give us some credit :)
August 4, 2011 at 12:29 PM
Catherine W.
Catherine W.
I have watched children for over 20 years. I am a mother myself and go above the normal care. Part of me and being a mother. People really need to evaluate
what a caregiver gives their child(Children) I gave my time listening, very detailed homework help, paid for meals out and birthday parties,potty training, made sure they ate well and slept well so they were not cranky and on and on. I bathed the kids daily until it was time they could and should learn to do it themselves. I even played games and taught them good bathing habits. I was so inexpensive. But in the end sadly most parents forget this allows them to work, move up the ladder whether it is teaching or any other job. It does not last forever and the peace of mind and love of a caring person plus a real mom is priceless really. I watched in my home. A lot of wear and tear on my home. I am not disgruntled. I am sad and I am hoping to educate parents of this knowledge. Stop and think because they easily pay for toys that kids rarely even play with. That is because kids want adult interaction and why not? They are our future moms, dads, teachers, lawyers, grown adult society.
Thank you ~
August 1, 2011 at 10:48 AM
Laura M.
Laura M.
I really miss the kids I used to take care of. I tried to stay in touch and was told I could but the mother always made me feel strange. The nanny becomes part of the lives of the children and them a part of hers. I treated those kids like as if they were my own. Nannies need the transition sometimes just like the kids. It would be great if we could be like Mary Poppins and not get attached but that just is not true.
July 31, 2011 at 1:03 PM
The Pet Stop
The Pet Stop
I also have to disagree with Gina's comments. To say that "I believe nannies don't want to see your kids unless they get paid" is your personal feeling, and you are entitled to feel that way, however, if that is honestly how you feel, then I feel sorry for you. Unfortunately, it sounds like you haven't found "the right" nanny, or you choose to have a more professional, less personal, relationship. That is fine for some, and if that is what you want, but for some out there, such as myself, we take on a more personal role as well as professional. I have been a nanny/babysitter/mother's helper/daycare worker for over 15 years, and just recently left my last position because I'm having my own baby, as well as to concentrate more on my business. However, the family and I still keep in touch, probably weekly, and though I haven't been by to see the baby again since I'm very pregnant, we have plans to get together once I deliver. We think of each other as family, and that is how it has been with every family and child for whom I have cared. Through the years, I have maintained positive relationships with each family, some of my kids have even graduated college (and I'm only 31, so yeah, I feel pretty old now, lol). Point is, yes, while we are working for a family, we are expected to be loving and nurturing, but still professional, but once we leave that family, if both parties agree to maintain a relationship, that relationship can certainly be more casual and personal. One would hope that nanny and parents are adults, and would be able to know boundaries. I don't expect to get paid if I choose to spend time with one of my former kids, unless it is clear in advance that the sole purpose of my being there is to care for the child(ren). Again, I'm sorry that you feel that nannies don't care about your children unless they are being paid for it, but the majority of us loving, professional nannies don't feel that way at all. With the right family, we do become a part of that family, and just like any other personal relationship, we do choose to spend time with you and your children after the working relationship has ended, without any concern about being compensated for it. I wish you luck in finding the right nanny for you and your family, and I hope that you and your family get to experience that wonderful relationship, if you so choose.
July 14, 2011 at 10:54 PM
Louisa B.
Louisa B.
I grew very fond of the family and children I took care of. I never over stepped my boundries and didn't consider myself a second mother. I have respect for the mother child relationship and nothing can replace it. I would love to visit the family and stay intouch, without getting paid for it. It just depends on the person I guess.
July 8, 2011 at 4:01 PM
Maria M.
Maria M.
I do not agree with your comment, Gina. Most nannies do care about their previous cared children. I was a nanny of four and when their nanny budget ran out I was left devastated and with no job. It was not all about the money. I cared for those kids ages 6 months and four years old (two sets of twins). I still miss them so much, I felt like they were my family.
July 1, 2011 at 10:24 PM
Jessica Y.
Jessica Y.
Gina, constantly changing nannies could develop trust issues on the child. Based from what you described, it seems like expectations were not set correctly between you and the nanny, and this could cause lots of misunderstanding.

Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience. From my experience, when nannies leave in good terms, and after spending all this time with your child, they do call or stop by to say hi, unless the relationship was ended in very bad terms.
June 29, 2011 at 3:46 PM

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