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3 reasons you might need to let your nanny go — and how to do it gracefully

Lauren Wellbank
Aug. 21, 2018

Once you’ve gone through the arduous process of finding and hiring a nanny, the last thing on your mind is how you’ll handle it when the working relationship ends. But they all do, eventually. Surely, if Mr. Banks had to say goodbye to Mary Poppins, it stands to reason that someday you’ll be in the same position with your nanny, too.

As awkward or difficult as it may seem, it doesn’t have to be. Depending on the terms of your contract and the laws in your state, there may be specific rules about how much advance notice you need to give your nanny and how much severance you’re required to pay. Knowing these things before you enter into that conversation may help ease some of the uncomfortableness.

But if you still find yourself struggling with how to terminate your nanny’s employment, here’s how experts suggest you handle things to make it as stress-free as possible for everyone involved.

Reason 1: She just isn’t working out

I spent more than a year searching for the perfect nanny for my toddler daughters, and I finally found one earlier this summer. She was a recent high school graduate working at a daycare, and she came highly recommended from within my local Facebook mom group. She was perfect on paper, but it turned out she wasn’t perfect for our family. Her availability didn’t always line up with what we needed, and it ended up being a struggle to find additional coverage when she wasn’t available.

I agonized over what to say to her for days. She was a great kid, and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. In the end, a reason fell into my lap in that my husband made a career change, and his new position came with new hours that allowed him to be home precisely when I needed the extra help.

Letting your nanny go isn’t always that seamless. Sometimes things just don’t work out despite both of your best efforts, and you have to figure out how to effectively let her down. Life management coach Kimberly Friedmutter says in situations where an employer is trying to part ways with an employee, she advises her clients to talk to the person as if they were a doctor speaking to a family member in an emergency room.

“Slow, reassuring conversation, calm demeanor, complete devotion of focus and positive solution” all help when receiving the news that your position is being terminated, Friedmutter says.

She recommends keeping the focus off what went wrong by using positive phrases like, “We appreciate all you have done," as opposed to, “Sorry this didn’t work out.” Friedmutter says to be sure to hold eye contact, keep your cell phone and other distractions away and have your nanny’s final payment ready to go.

She advises to keep the tone positive, the conversation upbeat and end with an ego boost. Taking a moment to tell her something she was especially good at or how she positively impacted your child before you part ways may help you both feel better about the situation.

“Don't badmouth her in the neighborhood, (because) people talk,” says former nanny and childcare provider Fiona Tapp. Just because a nanny isn’t a good fit for you, doesn’t mean they won’t be a good fit for someone else.

Reason 2: Circumstances change

Sometimes circumstances are beyond your control, like a schedule or income change, causing you to have to terminate a nanny or caregiver who was a good fit for your family. Tapp recommends letting your nanny know that things are going to change as early as you can.

“Be honest. If you think you'll likely have to let her go, don't keep her hanging on with promises,” Tapp says. “Let her prepare.”

She also says that it may be worth having a conversation to see if there’s another setup that will work for everyone — like a reduction in hours or different duties.

You may be able to soften the blow by offering to help the nanny find more work. Tapp suggests writing a letter of recommendation or offering to introduce her to other parents in the area who may be seeking child care.

Reason 3: Your child ages out of needing a nanny

Children grow up, sometimes quicker than we’d like. It’s hard to think about the day your kid will no longer need to be supervised at all times, but it will happen. When this day comes, you and your nanny may both find the moment bittersweet. Tapp recommends doing something special for your child’s caregiver, especially if they’ve been a long-term employee. She suggests throwing a small party, buying a gift or giving them a surprise bonus.

Your children will need some time to adjust to this change, as well. Even if they are getting older and are eager for more independence or they’re excited about an impending milestone like starting school, losing the person that has cared for them may feel like losing a member of the family.

You can offer to keep in touch and let the nanny know how your kids are doing from time to time. Just because the relationship has changed doesn’t mean her friendship with your family has to end if you don’t want it to.

No matter what your reason is for letting your nanny go, you should make sure your child understands what is going on and knows that it’s not their fault that they won’t be around anymore. Remember that having to terminate the position of the person who cares for your children, regardless of the circumstances, can be stressful for everyone involved. A little kindness can go a long way.

Read next: Awkward conversations you need to have with your nanny

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