During my teaching years, I experienced and learned how to overcome the challenge of working with divorced parents. I developed ways to help navigate the teacher-parent relationship, keep everyone on the same page, and do my best to please both parents with caring philosophies that were completely different. Learning the skills I needed to work with divorced parents was not easy at first!
I believe that as a nanny, there are even more challenges since the interaction is much more frequent and the relationship more personal, than a teacher. I have only worked for divorced parents on an occasional basis, however I consulted a very good nanny friend of mine, who has extensive experience. Over the last eight years I’ve watched how graciously she has worked through major issues with her nanny family. Looking back and talking about how it has been, I was able to take some key points that I am sure are the reasons why she has been so successful; here they are:
1) Have everyone involved in the hiring process
There will be times when only one of the parties is the one hiring a nanny, therefore, one might think that person is the “real boss.” As it turns out, that is not really the case. It will be much easier and save you a lot of stress if both parents are involved in the hiring process, as early as possible. This will give you the opportunity to communicate with each parent about their respective child care philosophies, expectations, etc. Although there is a big chance the parents’ opinions will differ, this is the opportunity for you to remind them that all of the adults involved should have one common goal – the well being of the child that will be in your care.
2) Clear communication
Open communication is key from the beginning. It is important to know what the expectations of each parent are in terms of your schedule, job duties, and, of course, child care philosophies. What type of custody is in place? Will you be working in both households? Who will be the primary contact? How will information about the children be shared? These are all good questions to have answered ahead of time and stay on top of while working for the family.
3) Be flexible
When working with children of divorced parents, a greater amount of flexibility might be required, since children may be going back and forth between two households. You will feel like you’re working for two different families. Be flexible and make sure you can cater to each of their separate needs, such as household rules specific to each parent.
4) Be patient and understanding
You must attempt to understand the psychology behind the children’s behaviors, especially if the separation is recent. You will need to have lots of patience and empathy for children whose parents are divorced or getting divorced. It might help to do some research ahead of time to help you better understand and be there for the child. Sometimes, the nanny will be the one whom a child will trust to tell *everything,* and it can be quite overwhelming to be entrusted with all those genuine feelings and fears.
5) Be Neutral
This is definitely the most important! You must remain neutral and never take sides between the parents. Remember that you are there for the kids, and that whatever went on or goes on between the parents is none of your business. It is also extremely important that you are discreet and do not disclose non-child related information to the other parent. Children may sometimes overshare and that’s okay, but you need to be cautious in terms of your own sharing and carefully judge whether or not new information about one parent is something the other parent really needs to know. As a rule of thumb, only share things about one parent with the other if it will impact the care of their child.
These five tips should really help you navigate this not-so-easy situation. You may also want to reach out to your nanny community and seek advice from other nannies who are dealing with divorced parents and may have similar situations. If you have other difficult conversations and scenarios that you need help with, sign up for CareAcademy’s online class: The Professional Nanny Certification.
Nanny Thaty Oliveira is a Career Nanny. She has been working with children since 1998 as a babysitter, drama instructor, English teacher, storyteller, bilingual (Spanish/English or Portuguese/English) teacher, Au Pair and nanny. Thaty is also a certified Mediator and Mediator Coach for the nation’s first Domestic Worker/Employer Mediation Project launched in 2012 and radio host of the NDR – National Domestic Radio.
Tatiane came to Boston in 2003 and since then, has attained a B.A. in Multidisciplinary Studies (majoring in Early Childhood Education) in 2009, and M.Ed. in ESL/Bilingual Education in 2013. She is currently pursuing a Master of Management in Human Leadership and Organizational Dynamics in order to develop her coaching and consulting skills hoping to bridge this degree with the other leadership/coaching courses she has completed and better mentor parents and fellow nannies.