When most people think of nannies, they think of childcare providers who care for infants and toddlers. However, a large number of nannies work with school age children. These positions come with their own unique set of challenges, including developing a good relationship with a tween or teen who feels he doesn’t ‘need” a nanny. Here are some tips to jump start a successful relationship.
Respect the child’s independence. Many tweens and teens flat out reject the idea of having a nanny because they feel they’re too old to need childcare. They’re afraid the nanny will treat them like children rather than the budding young adults they are. While it’s important to provide appropriate supervision and enforce the rules laid out by the parents, give school age children ample opportunities to practice and expand their independence. If your tween says she doesn’t need a ride home from school, let her walk home with friends. If your teen says he doesn’t need reminders to study for his tests, have faith that he’ll remember to study on his own. Work with the child to outline reasonable expectations and the consequences that will follow if those expectations aren’t met. Then give them the freedom to figure the rest out themselves.
Use the label household manager rather than nanny. Let’s be honest, it can be embarrassing for a tween or teen to have a nanny. At a time when he’s struggling to be seen by friends as more grown up, having a nanny sends the message that he’s anything but grown up. Calling yourself a household manager rather than a nanny will offer your charge an easy and face saving way to introduce you and explain your role in his life. Not being called the nanny won’t change the nature of your relationship with the child. You can still be an amazing caregiver regardless of what your title is.
Don’t try and force a relationship. Some school age children will immediately bond with their nanny. Others will take a while to warm up. If your charge doesn’t immediately become your best friend, don’t take it personally. The time it takes to form a real connection with her reflects her temperament, her personality, her history with caregivers, and where she is developmentally. Let the relationship unfold naturally rather than pull out all the stops to win her over.
Connect with them around things they love. One of the quickest ways to win any child over is to join in on a favorite activity. If your tween spends her afternoons buried in the latest tween book series phenomenon, get your own copy and read along with her. If your teen is obsessed with the latest video game, ask him to teach you how to play and challenge him to a battle. You may never win, but he’ll appreciate your effort.
Be a support person. This is a tough age. There are more challenges for tweens and teens today than at any other time in history. Your charge is trying to juggle a lot of different expectations at a young age. There’s pressure to succeed academically, to excel at sports, to be popular, to look a certain way, to be a responsible, well-behaved kid, and on and on. One of the most important gifts you can provide is to be a support person to him as he navigates all of these roles. You have a unique role in his life and that can lead to a close and long-lasting relationship.
Point out the advantages of having a nanny. Tweens and teens often reject the idea of having a nanny without really thinking about all a nanny can do for them. Gently remind your charge that you’re the person that gives her a ride home from school when it rains. That you’re the person who drives 20 minutes out of your way to stock up on her all-time favorite granola bars. That you’re the reason she’s not stuck in the school’s afterschool program. That you’re her ride to the mall, the movies, and her best friend’s house. When kids see how different their lives would be without a nanny, they often become more appreciative of the caregiver and the relationship.
Show off your sense of humor. Kids are surrounded by serious and stressed out adults, so they quickly gravitate to adults who are fun. Be the adult who can find the silliness in any situation, who laughs at the dumbest jokes, who thinks practical jokes are a great addition to any day. Humor is a surefire way to connect with a child, no matter his age.
There are lots of nannies caring for tweens and teens these days. Although those relationships are different than the ones a nanny has with younger children, they can be just as close and fulfilling.