Wednesday, 27 February 2013

When nannies say 'goodbye' to a family revisited

I am fascinated that by far my most popular blog has been "When nannies say 'Goodbye' to a family" and that when I look at the search terms that people use who find 'SusanSays', they are often about this theme.

From this I draw the obvious conclusion that it is a subject that concerns nannies, and probably families too, and that people are looking for guidance on how to go about saying goodbye.

I'm not sure that there is much more that I can add to make this process any easier.  In my original post, which was based on a nanny's decision to move on,  I recommended such strategies as:
  • being clear with parents and children about when you would finish;
  • speaking positively about future plans for the children eg 'next week you will be going to daycare', or 'next week Jane will be taking you to the park and you'll have fun with her just like you do with me';
  • acknowledging that it is hard to say goodbye, that it is OK to feel a bit sad;
  • perhaps creating a book of photos of fun things you have done, or giving the children a photo of you with them;
  • not making promises you can't keep about future contact.
When you have a fixed term contract with a family it can be easier to finish than when you have no finishing date in sight.  It is particularly difficult when the date to finish is out of your hands and happens suddenly, perhaps because of a change in family circumstances, or because a family has been increasingly unhappy about your performance and has not let you know their concerns or given you an opportunity to make changes in the way you work.  In these circumstances you may not have time to prepare the child, and you may be feeling shocked and battered by the circumstances.  There is little point trying to change the mind of the parents, so say goodbye with as much dignity as you can, and use your agency and friends for emotional support and for professional direction in areas you may need to change.
When I wrote recently about 'Professional boundaries' I also mentioned that not becoming over-involved with the children and their families makes it easier for everyone when you leave.  This does not mean being cool and distant, but it does mean that while you are warm and affectionate you do not let the children and family become more important to you than people in your life away from work. While you might spend a little time outside work planning the next day or the week's activities, you need to have a life of your own away from work where you socialise, form relationships and meet your own social and emotional needs.

It is hard, working alone in a family, not to think of yourself as the most important person in the child's life, but this is not reality.  The child's parents have this role.  They lend you their role in the hours you are caring for their child, but it is only a loan. From the start of the time you meet a family you need to be clear to yourself about your role and what that means.  You are, as the legal term says 'in loco parentis' ie in the place of the parent, BUT you are not the parent.  You act like the parent, in the parent's absence, making decisions about the care of the child (in accordance with the parents' wishes), about diet, activities, safety...all the aspects of daily life with children.  This is one of the reasons why we are very keen that nannies employed by our agency:
  • make their planning for the children clearly available to parents;
  • make reports on the children's day.
Doing this helps make clear your role and informs parents what their children have been doing in their absence. It also gives the parents an opportunity to give you feedback on how you are fitting in with their ideas.

Most families these days don't expect their nanny to stay until their children are old enough to leave home, but at the same time do not want to see their children have to face too many changes.  At the same time, nannies often have changes in their own circumstances, (eg marriage or pregnancy) or are looking for a new professional challenge, so many move on after about 2 years.

Change is part of life, and we need to grasp it with both hands, looking for new opportunities, not looking back with regret.

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