Hiring a nanny or babysitter for the first time is a big deal for parents. Once you’ve found a caregiver you trust to hold down the fort while you’re away, your next task is to introduce your child. Your child’s response to a new caregiver depends on several factors, including her previous experiences with strangers, her temperament, and separation anxiety Regardless of how you predict your little one will react, there are steps you can take to ease her into new caregiver territory.
Here are some tips for an easier hand-off:
- Name Drop Before the First Meeting
Before your child’s new caregiver meets her for the first time, try to work the caregiver’s name into daily conversations as much as possible, especially with toddlers:
- You’re going to meet our new friend Lisa this week, aren’t you excited?
- Lisa also loves books! I bet she’ll want to read some with you.
- Lisa’s really good at building with blocks. She’ll show you when she visits.
Talk about what the new caregiver looks like, how friendly she is, and how much everyone likes her. This helps little ones feel more comfortable with the idea of being around someone new.
- Have a Meet-and-Greet
Especially if this is your baby or toddler’s first time being cared for by someone new, it helps to have an introductory session a day or two before your child’s first solo time with the new caregiver. Invite the caregiver to come over and spend at least an hour with your child in your presence. This initial visit benefits everyone involved. It offers your child an opportunity to spend quality time with the new sitter while also feeling safe with you nearby. You get a chance to observe their interactions and offer helpful tips. It also allows you to discuss details that will make the caregiver’s job easier (her favorite toy, how to best soothe her, foods she doesn’t like, scheduled nap times, etc).
- Involve Your Child
Toddlers may be more open to a new caretaker if they feel confident and in control. When your new sitter arrives for a meet-and-greet, involve your toddler in the process. Allow her to show the babysitter her toys, tell her the names of her stuffed animals, or show her new friend her room. To boost her excitement for the first meeting, ask your toddler to draw a picture or make a welcome sign. This not only sets a positive tone for the introduction, but also helps your child feel more assertive.
- Plan an Activity for the Big Day
Having an activity planned for the first time your child is alone with a new caregiver can be a healthy distraction. About an hour or so before the sitter arrives, tell your child that she’s got a fun day ahead of her! Whether it’s coloring, watching a movie, or playing a game, remind her that when her friend arrives, they’re going to do her favorite activity. This gives the sitter and your child something to focus on after your departure.
- Always Say Good-Bye and Don’t Linger
With both babies and toddlers, it’s important to say good-bye when it’s time for you to leave. Sneaking out of the house gives the impression that something’s wrong. Even if you’re anticipating tears or a tantrum, your child needs to know that you’re leaving and you’ll come back. Disappearing acts can make little ones feel fearful and confused. Plus, your child might start assuming you’re sneaking out of the house every time you check the mail! Saying good-bye builds trust, even though it can be tough on both of you. It’s also important for you to be confident as you exit. Give a big hug! Share some love! And try not to look back. It can be more of a challenge for your child and the babysitter if you show hesitation or linger when you’re trying to leave.
Helping children build a relationship with a new caretaker is a healthy part of growing up, and teaches them people outside of their family circle can love and care for them, too.