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Is Your Nanny Mentally Fit For The Job – How To Spot Potentially Dangerous Problems

Beautiful young woman and her adorable little son having a picnic in sunny park

When it comes to hiring a nanny, many parents think checking references, doing a background check, and making sure the person has plenty of experience is all that they need to do in order to make sure the person is fit to watch their children.

BUT what many people, including myself 12 years ago, don’t understand is, THE MOST important thing to evaluate is your nanny’s state of mental health and her ability to make good judgment calls when necessary.

After working as a nanny myself, hiring several nannies for my three girls and working with clients as a therapist, nanny consultant, and nanny spy, I can honestly say investing in a mental health assessment for your nanny is the single most important thing that you need to do before you hire.

I recently started working with two families who had traumatic experiences with their nannies. The first set of parents came home early from dinner to find their nanny standing by the window smoking pot. She had been working with the family for three months, she had come highly recommended by a top agency and she had excellent references. The parents were shocked and felt betrayed.

Over the course of my meeting with them, they kept telling me how “perfect” she had seemed prior to this incident. However, then they told me that she was stressed financially and had asked for money in advance. I have a list of red flags that all parents should watch for when working with nannies. And being financially stressed and asking for money in advance is definitely one of them.

The second family had an incident with their nanny and they ended up with their child in the hospital. The dad came home one day, greeted the nanny and almost immediately noticed something seemed off with his 10-month-old daughter. He asked the nanny if anything had happened and she said no. His wife came home and she immediately noticed something was not right with their daughter.

The baby was fussy and kept touching her ear. She ended up throwing up. They called a family friend who is a pediatrician and at first thought maybe it was just a virus, but eventually they ended up taking her to the ER. They called the nanny again just to see if maybe she remembered her falling or something, and she denied anything happened. It turned out, their daughter had suffered a concussion and ended up having to stay at the hospital for four days. When the nanny came to the hospital to visit, they again asked her, saying they wouldn’t be mad but needed to get to the bottom of the story. The nanny finally broke down crying and admitted she had fallen.

This nanny had been a referral of another mom, who sang her praises and recommended her highly. And she also had other excellent references. When other moms hear these stories, it clearly alarms them. But stories like these can be avoidable.

Nanny Mental Health Assessments can help identify mental health issues like depression and anxiety that can lead to potentially dangerous situations for your children. Experienced therapists and/or social workers know how to expertly phrase their questions in order to evaluate emotional capacity in a nanny. The assessments are designed to help determine other cognitive abilities, strengths/weaknesses and other traits that will help you find a good match for your family.

A Mental Health Assessment should take about 1 hour and should be done by a licensed mental health professional (a psychologist, licensed social worker or mental health counselor). It should cost less than $500. When you are about to spend $35,000 a year (or more) for your Nanny, this is a small price to pay to know that you’ve done everything you can to put your children in the right hands.

We all want the best for our children and there are no guarantees, but this is another tool you can use to know you did all you can to get the best help for your family. Good luck!

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, contact us today!

Stress-Free Parenting Part 5: Connecting With Your Kids

I’ve been blogging the past month about stress-free parenting. This week, I’d like to focus on ways you can actively engage with your children when you don’t let stress get in your way.

We are all busy parents and also have many  other responsibilities and stresses, which we tend to believe prevent us from spending quality time with our precious children.

I think it’s important to look at the time you are spending with your kids. When you’re together, what do you do with them? What are you saying?

My girls are currently 6,9, and 12. I find that before school every morning, I’m mostly giving directions: “Get dressed, brush your teeth, put your pjs away, eat your breakfast, we’re going to be late, etc.” Then, when they get home, it’s, “How was your day? Are you hungry? Pick up your room, please.” At that point, I start cleaning up, making dinner, and then eventually catch up on emails when I can escape to my office.

In 2010, a study showed that the average mother spent 13.7 hours a week with her children (less than two hours a day). Part of the problem is parents often feel guilty about how much time they are spending with their kids, so they stress about its significance or let their guilt affect the way they parent. However, research has gone on to show that it’s not the amount of time you spend with your children that matters — it’s the quality of that time.

Reading that most parents spend so little time with their children made me sad. Our kids are so special — each and every one of them. I know that despite being busy and stressed with life, we can find more than just 10 minutes a day to actually enjoy our kids and appreciate the beauty of childhood.

One of the most profound quotes regarding childhood and our role as parents is, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” — Frederick Douglass

Creating strong, lasting relationships with our children has such a strong and long-lasting impact. You can’t go back and do parenthood over again with your children. Mental health prevention starts when your children are young. So many problems with young adults today stem from childhood experiences and habits. The more you know your children and work on your relationship now, the easier it will be as they get older.

The other morning, my 6-year-old came to me while I was working, saying, “Mommy mommy… Look at the new dance move I learned.” She was so excited to share her dance with me and while I make a big effort to play with her and listen to her I was in the middle of working on something important that was time sensitive. 

“I will be with you in few minutes,” I responded to her. I went back to finish what I was doing and a few seconds later I glanced toward her sweet little face — that a minute earlier was smiley and excited — and what I saw was her disappointed and sad face. 

I couldn’t resist and gave her a big hug and apologized. Yes, I know about delayed gratification and the importance of teaching children to learn how to be patient and wait, but it seems that many of us do that to our children way too often.

So I got up from my computer, sat on the floor, and asked her to show me her dance. Two minutes later I asked if she wanted me to find the song she was playing called “Sugar.” I blasted the song and for five minutes we danced and acted as silly as we could.

I hugged my daughter and told her how much I loved her. She gave me a big kiss. Then I told her that I had to finish working on something important, and she went back to her room to play.

I felt so happy and more motivated than before to do whatever I was doing. I connected with my 6-year-old and all she needed from me was a few moments of my time to know that she was loved and that I was attentive to her. She felt validated and important and I got the chance to spend a few minutes doing something fun and rewarding for me. 

What is my point? Yes, we are all busy people and there are things we have to get done as adults with many responsibilities. But if we pause to enjoy these small precious moments with our little ones, even if it means that we are doing something ridiculous or listening to something that we don’t care for, we’re sending such a strong message to our kids.

Try to spend whatever time you have and can with your children and make it quality time. You will discover a whole new world… 

When you are actively engaged with your child, the experience is so much more rewarding for both you and your child than if you are simply present with them physically. Make an effort to just be there and listen. Don’t judge or discourage your child… Practice being positive and just be. 

It’s a lot to think about when you are trying to always make everyone happy (including yourself). So here are a few guiding principles I like to think about:

  1. Practice mindfulness (whether you are at work or spending time with your kids, you should be mindful of that time)
  2. Don’t judge yourself
  3. Carve out time each week for special quality time with each one of your kids.

5 Tips For Helping Your Children Overcome Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is something all kids face at one point or another. We know the statistics – our kids are more likely to bully, act out, experiment with things like drugs and alcohol and indulge in self-harm behaviors like eating disorders because of the influence of classmates and peers. The older your child gets, the more dangerous peer pressure becomes. At the same time, it often seems like we have less and less power as parents to protect our kids from other kids. We want to raise strong kids who will arise above that pressure, but how can we really ensure that will happen? How do we teach our kids to be leaders and not followers? To turn to us for guidance instead of getting swayed by the lure of popularity and social standing?

Here are five tips for helping your children overcome peer pressure:

  1. Keep the lines of communication open.

The more you talk to your child, the more you’ll understand what pressures he or she is facing and what is going on at school and outside the home. If our children feel they can turn to us in times of need, they are less likely to turn to other sources. Encourage your child to talk about his or her day on a regular basis. You don’t need to know everything, particularly as your child gets older, but assert yourself as someone willing to listen without judgment. Talk through situations that may not involve your child specifically and point out ways to avoid situations where temptations will be more difficult to avoid.

  1. Teach your child self-confidence.

This is huge and begins from an extremely early age. Instilling confidence in your child will set him or her up for the rest of life. How do you do this? First, make sure you are emphasizing positive body image. This means not criticizing your child’s eating habits or making comments about weight. This also means not making comments about your own weight or emphasizing appearances over what is really important. Compliments and praise should be handed out frequently – when the situation warrants it, of course. Celebrate your child’s uniqueness in every way. Show your pride and teach your child to feel pride for accomplishments and a job well done.

  1. Reinforce positive values.

Make sure your children know where you stand on important issues. Point out instances of honesty, standing up for someone getting picked on and choosing the path less taken. As parents, it’s our job to model the type of behavior we expect. Set clear and strict rules when it comes to things like drugs and alcohol, and most importantly, explain your reasoning for those rules.

  1. Monitor your child’s friends.

This doesn’t mean spy on your children or take away all their privacy, but you should feel comfortable around your children’s friends and their parents. Encourage socializing at your house. Leave them alone to have their time, but also keep a watchful eye on the types of behavior and language that is used. Don’t tear your children’s peers down, but if you see behavior you don’t like, it’s a good idea to discuss this with your children in a non-threatening way. If the behavior is truly harmful, then of course, you can take the necessary precautions to limit your child’s interaction with that person.

  1. Encourage your child to get involved.

This goes back to self-confidence, but the more involved and part of the community someone is, the less that person will feel the need to take extra steps to fit in. Don’t force your child to engage in clubs and sports if he or she isn’t interested, but stress the importance of being involved in something or finding a hobby that is fulfilling and then being proud of that activity or hobby. Being a part of a team can do wonders for a child’s self-esteem. A sense of belonging truly helps children overcome peer pressure from other sources.

Do you have any other tips? I’d love to hear!

There Is No Compensation For Time Spent With Your Kids

Something we as parents often feel guilty about is not spending enough time with our kids, or sometimes, not spending enough time with one of our children when we have multiple. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of compensating your kids in other ways to ease your guilt. We know we shouldn’t, but it makes us feel better to say, “Since I’m not there to go to the park with you, I’ll let you pick out anything you want in the candy store with the nanny,” or, “I’ll bring home a special treat.”

The problem is when we do this, we are teaching our kids several things that will stick with them. First off, we aren’t teaching them that disappoint is a fact of life and as a parent, it is impossible to be there every second. We’re also teaching them that they will get presents when things don’t go their way. They will start to expect extra things or place higher value on things like money. The truth is a candy bar or even something like a later bedtime can’t make up for you – the parent – being there, so there is no sense in teaching your children that those things are on the same playing field.

Whenever you feel yourself starting to give your child what you might deem as a “reward,” stop and ask whether you are actually rewarding your child for something that is deserving of praise or a special treat or are making up for something you feel you owe. If it’s the latter, try taking the approach of having a sensible conversation and explaining why you can’t be there. Can you spend extra quality time with your child in the near future? Make sure you explain that time together is of the utmost importance to you, and then take steps to show you mean it.

If you use money, food and other incentives to “make up” for your time, you are essentially sending the message that material things hold significance. Awareness is key, and nothing can make up for quality time.

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7 Ways To Keep Your Nanny Around For A Long Time

Young woman standing near refrigerator filled with products

Finding a good nanny can be such a relief. So, what do you do when you have finally found that person who you can depend on and who you and your kids both get along with? How can you ensure the nanny will stick around?

I’ve come up with a list of  7 suggestions that can make a huge difference to your nanny and will help guarantee the relationship continues to prosper like you need it to.

Do you have any to add? Comment below!

  1. Trust your nanny. Trust is the first step in any healthy relationship, and this pertains to a parent/nanny relationship as well. When you trust your nanny it makes her feel empowered. It makes her feel confident in her choices and not have to second-guess every decision. It also shows your children the nanny is competent enough to take care of them and they should listen to and respect her. If you don’t trust your nanny, how will your kids?
  2. Offer to pay for  transportation. Of course, if your nanny is transporting your kids around, you should be paying for any and all transportation. However, if your nanny stays late it is a really nice gesture to pay for a cab or an uber ride home occasionally as well.
  3. Leave petty cash for your nanny. If your nanny will be out with your kids and buying snacks etc. for them, leave cash ahead of time. This way your nanny doesn’t feel like she is digging into her own pockets. It can be awkward for your nanny to request you pay her back for a $2 bottle of water, but at the same time, she should never have to use her own cash on your kids.
  4. Offer her food, especially if she is there around mealtime. If your nanny is always there around a meal, make sure you offer her food or tell her she can take what she would like from the refrigerator/ pantry. You can also text her beforehand and order her food, or make extra of whatever the kids are having. Keep in mind that if your nanny is constantly having to order takeout to your place, she is going to start seeing this as an added expense of what it costs for her to keep herself fed while she takes care of your kids.
  5. Tell your nanny of any change of plans. If you know you will be away one weekend or your kids’ schedules are changing, give your nanny a heads up. Your nanny sets aside time for you and it is only respectful to give her notice as soon as you know of any changes that may affect her. Don’t announce at the last minute you don’t need her the following week. Give her a chance to plan accordingly.
  6. Be respectful of her time. Similar to the last point, your nanny sets aside a specific amount of time for you each day or week depending on your agreement. It is okay if you are going to be late one day, things happen. But understand your nanny may have other obligations and this should not be an ongoing occurrence. The same way that you want your nanny to be on time getting to you, as parents you should treat your time being home the same way.
  7. Give her time off. Everyone needs a break. Being aware of when your nanny needs time off and offering it to her without her asking may go a long way in your relationship with your nanny. Don’t let your nanny burn out; a short break can recharge someone for a long time. Even if it’s simply asking if she would like an afternoon or a day off. You can make it work for your schedule. If it’s her birthday, try not to make that the day you come home really late. Certain things can’t be avoided, but awareness, respect and communication make all the difference.

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, check out our nanny consulting page or contact us today!