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Child Care Challenges: Transitioning to a New Caregiver

Lisa Tabachnick
July 25, 2017

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

If your child attends day care or has a nanny or babysitter, there's a good chance that he'll experience a transition in care at some point. Whether your nanny leaves for another position, your growing child requires a move from nursery room to pre-school room at day care or a new babysitter takes over for the summer, transitions can be tricky. Take some time to prepare.

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 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.
  • 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.
  • If your child has a special stuffed animal or blanket, make sure that she's able to keep it with her if it makes the change easier to handle.

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 day care 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 day care and see if you can carpool or walk together. Try arranging a playdate 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 day care, 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 day care, be sure to keep having playdates 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.

Lisa Tabachnick Hotta writes about parenting and other issues for Care.com. A freelance writer, editor and researcher, she has two young children.

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