10 Ways To Help Your Child Part With A Babysitter
For anyone following along on Instagram, you’ll know we are bracing ourselves this week to part with our beloved part time nanny who has been with Bodie two days a week since he was 5 months old. Bodie proudly tells everyone V is his best friend and second only to Dan or I, she is the person he craves for when he’s feeling down or ill or better still, when he’s excited to share something.
When I hired her almost 3 years ago now, she had told us her time in the States would be short but 3 years felt like a lifetime. Now it’s my son’s entire lifetime and he’s a little person with his own special relationship. In those 3 years, I’ve held him through falls and fevers. Talked him through tantrums. But the big and real feelings that come with his first real permanent change and goodbye are beyond that simple scope.
I recognize it may sound overblown to some but since February, I’ve laid in bed in the wee hours with a weight in my chest anticipating witnessing Bodie go through this and not being able to control it. It’s the first time in my motherhood experience that it’s not on me to fix but simply to be honest, be steady and be understanding. My husband will tell you that I probably register somewhere high on the sensitivity and empath scale so I know that I’m doing a fair amount of feeling on Bodie’s behalf in preparation for the transition.
The response from peers has been 70/30. Most say, he’s 3, he’ll survive and it’s harder on me than it is for him. And I buy it. I buy that in a month he’ll stop asking for her. He’ll adjust to a new babysitter. In fact, the transition will teach him trust and be another evolution for our family dynamic in that he’ll share a babysitter with his sister making them a team of sorts.
But assuming he’ll be just fine pays little credit to the relationship, the change in his world and to my son (and most children) who are so acutely aware and sensitive. It pays little mind to the love he has for this person that he needs to process is no longer going to be a part of our daily lives. So while I accept all of the aforementioned truths that all will be fine, I was still frustrated by several google searches that turned up empty on parting ways with a caregiver.
So in an effort to support anyone else going through a similar transition at a similar stage, here’s what I’ve assembled in asking our school, pediatrician, a local moms group and our own community.
Lay the groundwork. For us, as V is moving to be closer to family, we’ve spoken for months about where V is from and shown pictures of her parents and siblings.
Be simple, direct and honest about the reason. In our case, we said, “V misses her mommy and daddy very much and wants to go live with them so she is moving home to London and won’t be able to play with us anymore.”
Offer immediate clarity about how it affects them. We said, “Mommy and Daddy are always here and we are working very hard to find another special friend to play with you and Lyla.”
Deliver the news with enough time that they can process and say goodbye but no so much time that it fosters anxiety. We told Bodie one week in advance.
Anticipate and understand a range of reactions. Bodie first said he felt sad and that he loves V and wants to play with her. But since then, he has visibly shut down and gets very quiet and disengages at mention or conversation about the change. Other children may move on quickly which the school mentioned can also be hard. Others may act out toward the caregiver for the remaining time.
Make the move concrete. While it’s easy to make the initial conversation one and done, reinforcing the message helps the actual processing. We were recommended to make a transition book (which I fell behind on oops) and look on a map to talk about where V is physically going.
Involve the kids in a celebration of sorts. This feeds into making it concrete but our pediatrician gave us the great idea to have Bodie pick out a present and help plan a goodbye party on V’s last day.
Overlap new caregiver (if possible). I simply felt like no one compared in all my interviews over the past months so I couldn’t make this happen but everyone suggested trying to plan for some sort of overlap with old and new nanny so that Bodie wasn’t going through two transitions at once - saying goodbye and meeting someone at the same time.
Keep regular routines consistent (again, if possible). I had no idea V’s last week with us would fall squarely in the middle of Bodie’s spring break from school so of course it’s also a break from routine. Ideally, we’d be able to keep Bodie’s school and classes going so he would feel that sense of security. Instead, we’ve decided to just make his first week sans V a special one with a mini vacation and a visit from my parents.
Do the work on yourself to trust the process. This part is probably the hardest for me but the piece I’ve heard over and over again. That the right people come into your life at the right time. V taught me how to trust my children with someone else. This next person is going to be a new gift for our family of four. Acknowledging that I feel sad about missing V while sharing my own calm and confidence about the next step can only serve Bodie.
All of this comes with the heavy caveat that you know your children best and we each have our own parenting styles and household cultures. We all approach the day to day as well as the big changes in the way that works for us.
If you’ve gone through a change in caregiver, we’d love to hear about your experience and any thing that helped in your homes.
Featured Image by Lauren Marek