Sunday, March 29, 2015

When Your Employers Face a Crisis by Deborah Brown

Even the most seasoned nanny can be at a loss for what to do when her nanny family is in crisis.
My dear friend and colleague Deborah Brown shares practical and helpful advice that can be applied to lots of different situations.

When Your Employers Face a Crisis

Deborah Brown

As a nanny, you are present when your employers celebrate and when they mourn. When our employers face a crisis, whether it is the death of a family member, a divorce, or the loss of a pregnancy, we want to help. But often, we are not sure how we can best show our love and support during the most difficult times “our families” go through.
In my opinion and experience, a nanny's relationship with her employers gives her clues as to how to help after a loss. If a family is generally very private, they may have no wish to share more than basic info with their nanny. A more open family may be more likely to tell nanny exactly what is happening, and ask for her help as needed.
There are several things a nanny can do regardless of her level of emotional intimacy with the family. First and foremost, find out what language is being used to tell the existing children about the loss, and stick to that script regardless of personal beliefs. Ask if parents want children's questions directed to them, or if you are free to answer based on the script you have been given.
Second, do all you can to keep life as routine and normal as possible for the children. There may be a lot of people in and out, a lot of bereavement gifts, a lot of emotional upheaval going on all around the kids, and having nanny be their steady support is essential.
Third, ask what you can do when it comes to visitors, gifts, and other issues that pop up. Does your family want you to screen visitors, or do they want to see anyone who comes by? Do they want to be the ones to answer the door for gift deliveries, or do they want you to handle that when possible? Tell them you are happy to handle whatever they would like you to handle, and follow their lead.
Fourth, ask what they want you to say to your nanny circle and to their neighbors, then follow their wishes. If a crisis is changing the family structure, or if a pregnancy loss means multiple people will be asking you how the pregnancy is going, have a simple answer ready to share, and then direct the people asking for further information to your employers. Be discreet, and if anyone continues to press you for information, a simple, "I'm sorry, but I can't really speak to that issue. If you need to know about XYZ, you'll have to ask my employers. I know you understand!" tends to stop persistent questioners in their tracks.
And finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself during times like these. Find someone who will listen when you want to talk about what is happening, and find ways to practice self-care, whether that means a massage, a manicure, additional time at the gym, or carving out time to relax during the most hectic weeks.
Nannies want to take care of those we know and care for, and when our employers suffer a loss, that instinct kicks in full speed. The best thing to do is remember that your role is to offer support as needed and requested, and to act according to established family/nanny dynamics. You can respect privacy while offering help and support, but you don't want to cross any boundaries that cannot be put back into place.

About the Author: Deborah has worked as a nanny in the Atlanta area since 1993. She most enjoys working with new parents, and often stays with families until all of the children have started to attend school. Deborah is also the Executive Director of Metro Atlanta Nannies, a social and educational support group established in 2004 that is open to all local nannies. Find out more information about Metro Atlanta Nannies at, or by searching for them on Facebook.