Hi, I'm Dr. Beth Onufrak!

When a Nanny is Leaving

published9 days ago
3 min read


When a Nanny is Leaving: 13 Things That Help

Hello there,

A beloved nanny leaving can be like an earthquake in a child’s life, depending on the duration and depth of the connection.

Nannies can become more than part of the family and real attachment figures. This change can be a bigger emotional event for your child than you expected.

Here are some ideas that may help.

Give some time for your kids to get used to the idea.

You may have the urge to not tell them until the transition is close. But that deprives your child of the opportunity to process the many stages of saying goodbye.

Talk, talk, talk about it.

Just allow to talk to happen. Rather than trying to quell their sadness or rationalize why the nanny has to go, stick with your child’s feelings initially.

Feelings that don’t come out will find another expression.

And when “bad behavior” disguises big feelings, then you’re in the trap of disciplining feelings… which never ever works.

Expect clinginess and emotionality.

If you expect regression, and you’ll be less surprised or irritated by it.

This is not a problem of mis-managed emotions, but the natural expression of grief, the deep, real stuff of life. Dealing with this loss will prepare them for any future loss.

This painful time is a priceless opportunity to provide a template for loss in the future.

Get ready to increase attachment time with them.

And if time is not in abundance, there are many ways to achieve it.

Extra snuggles time at night.

Love notes in lunchboxes, or hidden into notebooks.

A new special Love Song jingle between you and your child.

Extra nurturance at in the evening routine.

Lean less on consequences and punishments at this time.

Instead, step into empathy. Remember, it’s an emotional earthquake.

You wouldn’t like it if your boss docked your pay or took you off a project because you were mourning a big loss in your life.

Leave out the “but’s.”

You may be tempted to say “Well, I know you had your special routines with her. But with new nanny, you’ll make new ones.”

Justifications with “but” may not comfort as much as you hope. “But” can make kids feel like we’re talking them out of their feelings, or that their feeling is invalid.

Replace BUT with AND. “And” permits the hurt and the hope of better times to come.

Nothing and no one is perfect.

What if your children each had different experiences with this nanny? One a favorite, while another clashed with this caregiver?

Talk, talk, talk about it all. This is a wonderful opportunity to address a reality of life: that no relationship is perfect, and every relationship has its ups and downs.

Talk about why.

Many kids ask themselves “Is she leaving because she doesn’t like us anymore?” This is a good question to address outright.

Discuss what’s next.

Think about staying in touch with the nanny — whether this is desired, possible or reasonable.

Will they send any videos or pictures to the nanny? Will there be opportunity for FaceTime?

Think realistically about this… the departing nanny may have limited time to continue the relationship.

Make cards.

Encourage your child to write a card for the departing nanny.

The process of writing words and drawing pictures, at any level of development, helps both sides of the brain engage with the grief material.

And when big feelings come …

Let the rain fall, then offer an umbrella

  • Empathize: you understand how difficult this feels
  • Encourage: it hurts a lot right now, but will not hurt this much forever; each day will begin to feel a little bit better
  • Create some goodbye activity or plan
  • List soothing stuff: drawing, hold your hamster, a video game for a while.

And as for YOU …

Hug yourself.

A nanny’s departure can raise guilt due to the pain it brings your child.

Acknowledge these feelings, and then give yourself a hug. We can’t protect kids from everything that hurts.

And don’t let that guilt or sadness limit your acceptance of your child’s feelings. Remember, this is a chance to create a roadmap for family grief and loss in the future.

Feel your own feelings.

Reflect upon what this nanny has meant … to you, to the family. The good, the bad, the mistakes, the difficulties, the wonderful.

Nothing and no one is perfect and the next nanny certainly won’t be either.

The more you wrap your own brain around the impending loss, the better you’ll be able to assist your kids.

It’s not the events we endure, but the meaning we make of them, that builds our coping skills and emotional flexibility for whatever life brings.

You can’t prevent your child’s pain, but you can hold their hands and help them walk through it. And that just may help you, too.

Big changes can bring big emotions and big tantrums. Learn how to calm things down ... without making things worse. Sign up for Cool the Tantrums today, and I'll see you on your phone!

See you next week!

And remember ... Looking through your child's eyes changes everything.


Dr. Beth

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