How To Help Your Kid Adjust To A New Nanny
Give it time.
To paraphrase an old — but totally true — parenting cliché, it takes a whole lot of helping hands to raise a child. And if you need someone to watch your child while you work (either in an office or remotely), care for an older sibling while you recover from childbirth, or simply just have someone to help out during the day, you might be looking to add a nanny to your arsenal of childcare. While some people might pick a trusted friend or family member, you might need to hire someone new-to-you to take care of your child. If your child is unfamiliar with the person who is going to feed them, change their diapers, pick them up at school, or just chill at the park with them, knowing how to get a child used to the nanny will save everyone a lot of stress and tears.
Once you’ve made the big decision to hire a nanny, your ultimate goal should be to get your child and the nanny to bond in a big way. “Regardless of the child's age, the goal is to help your child build a bond or attachment with their new caregiver,” Dr. Cindy Hovington, a neuroscientist, tells Romper. “This is an important step because the stronger the bond is with their new nanny, the more easily your nanny will be able to soothe your child and make them feel safe in moments of distress.” In fact, research has shown that when your kid feels comfortable with the nanny (or any caregiver), it directly impacts their own emotion regulation and social-emotional skills.
In addition to caring for your child, a nanny can become an integral part of your family dynamic, providing love and support for everyone in your household. But you’ll need to get your child used to the nanny first. Here’s an age-by-age guide to how to make it happen.
How to get a baby used to a new nanny
Adjusting to a new caregiver will take some time, and that’s normal. Allowing for that adjustment period — and any bumps that come with it — is key. “Regardless of your child's age, they might not necessarily warm up quickly to the new nanny,” says Hovington. “If your child is hesitating, it’s perfectly fine. In fact, avoiding a new person is a healthy social skill in young children called the transition period.” Babies typically develop “stranger danger” around 6 months of age, researchers found, and that wariness can intensify through their first year of life. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t help them adjust to a new caregiver. You simply may need to ease into things while the nanny works towards becoming a trusted person in your baby’s life instead of a stranger.
Keep these things in mind as you begin the process of helping your baby get used to their new nanny:
- Give it time. You’ll want to give your baby plenty of time to adjust to the new nanny. It’s ideal to start with short but frequent meetings at your home so that Baby understands that this person is safe for them to be with. Seeing you comfortable with the caregiver will show the baby that they can feel safe with them, too.
- Follow their lead. If your child holds out their arms or seems to want to be held by the nanny, follow their lead and let them do so. But — at least at first — don’t force your baby to be held by the nanny if they are unsure or scared.
- Bribe your baby. No, really. Sometimes, it’s OK to use a little gentle bribery and this is one of them. “Ask your nanny to bring fun surprises for your child, either for the first few days or once a week, which will give them something to look forward to,” says Bickmeyer. “These can be fun little gifts or activities you buy ahead of time and give to the nanny to arrive with.”
How long will it take for a baby to get used to a new nanny?
There is no one specific age or stage when your child will automatically jump into the nanny’s arms when they walk through the door, but it may happen faster than you expect. Be sure to give your child, the nanny, and yourself a lot of grace as everyone adjusts to a new routine. “The length of time it takes to get a child comfortable with a nanny depends on the child,” Christina Runnels, a licensed professional counselor explains to Romper. “Children that are slow to warm will take longer, while those that are more outgoing and accepting with process more quickly.” Typically, though, within about a month's time you should be able to have a good gauge on how the child feels around the new nanny.
How to introduce your toddler a new nanny
As the parent of any toddler well knows, many of the things that worked for them when they were babies no longer fit the bill. The same goes for introducing a toddler to a new caregiver — it’s going to be a slightly different process than it would be if they were littler. However, a slow, incremental introduction is still ideal. “You should introduce the nanny ahead of time,” says Kristy Bickmeyer, founder of Twinkle Toes Nanny Agency. “Just so that it’s not an unfamiliar face showing up on the first day.” Here are a few more steps you can take to help your toddler get used to a new nanny:
- Start slow and make it fun. Begin by introducing the nanny to your toddler at a few play dates, if you can. After a few play dates together, “your nanny is someone your child is used to seeing,” says Hovington.
- Establish boundaries, for yourself and for the nanny. “If you are a parent working from home, you must resist the urge to run out of the office every time the child has a tantrum, cries for any reason, or calls for you,” Bickmeyer explains. “If the child learns that you will suddenly appear at the slightest sign of discontent, you’re creating a child who will find reasons to be discontent so that you will appear.” Plus, it undermines the nanny’s authority with your child and can impair the potential relationship you’re trying to establish.
- Encourage outings. And it also means giving the nanny freedom to be able to explore and have fun together— and not be stuck indoors all day which might make both of them miserable. “Allow the nanny to take the child outside for walks, to the park, to music class, etc,” “Outings give the kids something to look forward to and a change of scenery almost always cures any discontent a child may be feeling.” After all, if your child is having a tough time adjusting to their new normal of life with a nanny, having something fun to look forward to in the day that they only get to do with the nanny allows them to focus on fun — and not the fact that you’re not home or unavailable.
How long will it take for a toddler to adjust to a new nanny?
All of these efforts can help make the first few days and weeks a bit smoother, but the adjustment to a new caregiver is still a big transitional time in your child’s life and will surely take some time. It may feel long in the moment, but trust that any tear-filled goodbyes will eventually melt away. “The full transition of your child getting comfortable with their nanny can take anywhere from a few days to a few months,” says Hovington.
How to introduce a bigger kid to a new nanny
Introducing an older child to the nanny is a totally different scenario than with babies or toddlers. Still, you’ll want to get everyone acquainted in a comfortable environment — your home or a favorite place, like the park, restaurant, or zoo, for example — so that your child feels safe. “Children will look to their parents to interpret new situations, so parents should ensure they are comfortable in their interactions with the nanny prior to introducing them to the child,” Runnels explains. Be sure to check your own emotions as well, since any unease, anxiety (or guilt) you might be feeling can be passed along to your child. Here are a few ways you can help a big kid get used to a nanny:
- Play…and lots of it. “Creating lots of play dates with the new nanny is important to help them get used to this new person in their life (with the mom or dad present as well),” advises Hovington. “This way, if your child doesn't want to play with the nanny, you can interact and chat with the nanny and play together.”
- Engage with the nanny yourself, and model a positive relationship. But make sure that your own interactions with the nanny are positive, because there will be a pair of peepers watching your every move. “Giving the child space to watch their parent with this new nanny will help with learning that the nanny is a safe person to get close to,” Hovington adds. Although you don’t want to force a friendship with the nanny, you do want to encourage curiosity about this new person and their role in your family. For example, if the nanny offers your kid a crayon to color with and they reject it, you can accept the crayon and color with the nanny instead. And soon, you’ll be fighting over who gets to draw with the blue crayon.
- Include your child in selecting the new nanny, if they’re old enough. “If the child is old enough to be part of the hiring process, they should be allowed to submit questions for the parents to ask (or hiring managers if the parents are not conducting the first interview),” Candida Vajana, a former nanny, tells Romper. “Having a nanny is something a child should enjoy, not something that is done to them.”
How long will it take for a child to get used to a new nanny?
Every child is different, so there are no hard and fast rules as to when your child will accept the nanny. Be prepared to take it slow for at least the first few weeks until a bond can be established. “If you notice that, even after 3-4 months, your child isn't automatically going to their nanny or when they are experiencing a negative emotion (such as sadness) or that the nanny can't console them, then perhaps this bond isn't being created,” says Hovington. “Find out how the nanny is soothing your child, how much play time they have with your child and how they are disciplining your child. Perhaps one of these is not aligned with how you do it and it is a matter of tweaking it to help the nanny build a stronger relationship with your child.”
Understanding how to get your child used to the nanny is going to be a big learning curve for everyone. By taking the time to get everyone comfortable with each other, (and offering lots of love and support along the way) everyone will adjust a lot faster and be a whole lot happier.
Pallini, S., Baiocco, R., Baumgartner, E., Bellucci, M., Laghi, F. (2016) Attachment in Childcare Centers: Is It Related to Toddlers’ Emotion Regulation and Attentive Behavior, Springer, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12187-016-9371-5
Brooker, R., Buss, K., Lemery-Chalfant, K., Aksan, N., Davidson, R., Hill Goldsmith, H. (2013) The Development of Stranger Fear in Infancy and Toddlerhood: Normative Development, Individual Differences, Antecedents, and Outcomes, National Library of Science, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4129944/
Dr. Cindy Hovington, Ph.D., founder of Curious Neuron
Christina Runnels, a licensed professional counselor
Candida Vajana, a former nanny with over 30 years of international nannying experience.
Kristy Bickmeyer, founder of Twinkle Toes Nanny Agency