Communication is a critical aspect of supporting a family as their nanny. From the interview to your day-to-day interaction, you can set the tone for a strong working relationship with effective communication. Working in someone’s home can feel intimate and relaxed, but there will be times in which you feel the need to speak up and discuss important information with your bosses. To help you in those moments, here are some tips to streamline your communication with families and ensure you are both well-received and understood.
1. Do Your Homework
Whether interviewing or checking in periodically, an informed nanny is already more effective than one who hasn’t done their research. Having a confident perspective on topics like parenting style, sleep training, discipline methods, etc. requires substantial knowledge of various methods combined with working experience. Be prepared to reference books, authors, articles, and any other sources to better support your thoughts. Make sure you have reasoning behind any issue you may present, beyond simply having a preference.
2. Be Professional
Working as a household employee, you are your primary advocate when issues arise. If you’re simply seeking clarity on something such as how to prepare lunch or whether to let your littles have screen time, then sending a quick text or asking the parents as they leave works just fine. In fact, these conversations will highlight your attention to detail and desire to please.
Bigger issues, like compensation, responsibilities, or concerns about your employment in general, may be best addressed in writing and subsequently in person. Ask yourself if you would take this issue to Human Resources in a corporate setting and if so, start by communicating in writing. Take the time to draft an email outlining your concerns and have someone you trust to proofread it for you. Be sure to include an opportunity to speak further in person, and a time frame that makes sense for the resolution. Outlining the issue and then scheduling a meeting (preferably without the kiddos) gives both parties an opportunity to consider the issue and participate in the resolution. This approach will signal to your nanny family that you’re serious, professional, and looking to reach a resolution.
3. Keep Your Tone Neutral
As a professional working in a private setting with perhaps the most intimate aspect of their life, tone is everything. Parents are looking to feel supported, encouraged, and in the right situation, guided without judgment or criticism. Instead of telling a parent what they should(n’t) do, offer your insight and experience while reassuring them you’re open to hear what has appealed to and/or worked for them. Any deal breakers should be presented when interviewing, such as car seat safety, sleep regulations, and other situations that may create a liability for the nanny.
4. Instead of Making Assumptions, Ask Questions
There are so many aspects of parenting that are emotionally and psychologically informed by the life experience of the parent. That being said, some things don’t make sense until we ask questions. Inquiring why certain things resonate with the parents or how they would react (or perhaps how they’d prefer you to react) in certain situations can be very helpful. You may even find yourself agreeing once you understand their motivation. Asking questions will also save you from making assumptions or accusations, and can improve your reception from parents.
5. Have A Solution In Mind
Making a complaint or criticism without a solution in mind is fundamentally unproductive. Whether you’re unsatisfied with the payroll system, the sleep schedule, or the playroom layout, first ask yourself: how can we make this better? Presenting a solution (or two) to the concern shows your professionalism, knowledge, problem-solving skills, and commitment to resolution. “How would you feel if we tried…?” gives parents the final decision without creating a new problem for them to solve.
6. Be Prepared To Dialogue
You aren’t going to hear yes every time. The key here is to begin the conversation and present your concerns in a way that can be received well, and then leave the ball in the parent’s court. Some issues will be more important than others to a parent and it’s important they still feel involved in the care of their littles, even in their absence. Being flexible in this way is the key to growing with a family and supporting them in the long term.
Good communication takes practice. You might not get it all figured out right away, but the more you make the effort to focus on how you’re saying things, the easier it will become to communicate that way naturally.