Communication vital for parent-nanny relationship

Every new parent dreams of finding the perfect nanny or babysitter-the one your kids love and who allows you time away free of worry. Even if you succeed in finding a perfect fit, like any relationship, there are bound to be a few bumps along the way.

So what do you do when these problems come up?

One word: communicate.

When it comes to hiring (and keeping) a nanny, communication not only is important between parents and the nanny, but also between the parents or guardians themselves.

According to Sarah Davis, founder of Olive.You.Nanny and the website Nannyshare Chicago, it is all about finding the right fit for your family and making sure everyone is on the same page from the beginning.

If you want someone who will go grocery shopping, do the laundry or drive your kids to playdates, make sure you hire a nanny willing to do that. If you would rather your nanny entertain the kids at home, let them know.

“I think the most important thing is for a family to go over hours, pay, holidays, sick days, things like that, so that everyone’s expectations are laid out from the get-go,” Davis says. “You run into problems when expectations aren’t listed out. Families can get frustrated, but the nanny didn’t know in the first place.”

And it’s important to write these expectations down, says Erin Krex, president of First Class Care Inc. She says 95 percent of families who do not write a contract have a problem within the first three months.

If problems do arise, it’s usually over little things that could have been avoided if discussed upfront, according to Amelia Miller, director at Lincoln Park Nannies. Will you provide lunch for the nanny or ask her to bring her own? (Miller says you should provide it.)

Will you ask her to use her own car to take the kids to their activities? If so, will you reimburse her for gas or not? (You should.) Will you give her paid vacation and sick days? (You should, since she is your employee.)

Little things can lead to your nanny feeling like she is being taken advantage of, which can then lead to her resignation.

It’s also important to check in with your nanny on a regular basis, says Mary Dombrowski, owner of College Nannies and Tutors’ NE Chicago Placement and Learning Center and author of How to Hire A Nanny.

“I believe it’s all about communication from the beginning,” Dombrowski says. “Each side lays out their expectations. Then check in frequently, especially when you first start working together. When you come home, ask, ‘How is it going?’ After week one, ‘How is it going? What do we like? What do we not like?’ As uncomfortable as those conversations can be for both sides, it’s so important.”

Krex tells her clients to sit down with the nanny every Friday and hold a review every three months. Both parties should feel comfortable enough to share any issues, but also make sure to include things that are going well.

From the beginning and throughout your nanny’s time with you, make sure both parents or guardians are on the same page.

“He said/she said is really bad for nannies. It puts them in bad situations and makes them uncomfortable, especially with discipline issues,” Dombrowski says.

It is also important for families to respect the fact that this is their nanny’s profession and you are working together as a team.

“I think the families that don’t respect their nannies typically are not the most successful families,” Krex says.

In the end, parents should work with a nanny or babysitter they feel comfortable with. Both parties should be happy, which ultimately will benefit the kids.

“When it’s someone taking care of your kids, if you aren’t 100 percent satisfied, change nannies,” Krex says. “You shouldn’t be going to work feeling like you can’t trust your nanny.”

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