4 Ways to Help Children Grieve

By Marcia Hall

Sorrow is a normal emotion for any child to experience. Often when loss occurs in a child’s life, like the death of a loved one or pet, parents and caregivers avoid the subject or try to make light of the topic. Sometimes they will even give the child gifts or do something to distract him from the emotion he is showing. While this can make the adults caring for the child feel better, it does not truly help the child in any way. Your child needs to be allowed to move though the grieving process. When he is younger it is your job to guide him along this path. Below are four ways you can help your child move through the stages of grief and come out on the other side healthier, happier and ready for the many sad events life has to hold.

  • Show emotion yourself. Many adults never had positive examples of sorrow as a child, so when sadness comes to their child, their first instinct is to bottle that emotion up until they can be alone. Some parents are simply afraid that by being sad, they will make their child sadder, and they don’t wish to manufacture a reason for their child to cry. However, children learn by example. If your child sees you cry or be upset in some way about loss, it helps him understand that his feelings of sorrow are normal when he loses someone close to him. If you bottle everything up, however, you are unintentionally shaming your child into bottling up his emotions, too. Instead, feel free to cry and be angry with your child around. Talk about the love you had for the person and why that person will be missed. Make sure your child gets to see all of the stages of your heartache, even the end result of acceptance of the loss.
  • Avoid distracting him from his emotion. When a child begins to grieve, his mind often starts worrying that he will lose things closest to him. He may begin to get scared that he will lose his parents, friends, pets and siblings. No one wants to consider the worst, and when children say things like “are you going to die?” those closest to him cringe at truthfully answering that question. However, the most helpful thing you can do for your child in that situation is to answer it honestly. The truth is that yes, someday you will die. We all will. You can simply say to your child “Yes, some day I will die, but I hope to live for a very long time and I have worked hard to make sure you will be very well cared for if and when I do die.”  How you elaborate will greatly depend on your own faith beliefs.
  • Ask him how he feels; don’t tell him how to feel. While it is true that you want to show your own sorrow during the grieving process, you also want to avoid telling the child how to feel. If he seems unmoved by the loss of his pet, do not imply to him that he should be more upset. He might surprise you by not really having much feeling about it right away, only to have that emotion surface weeks and even months later. Just make sure he knows that he can talk with you about it when and if he ever feels like it. If he does have a strong emotional outpouring right away, allow it to happen. Crying and being angry are very common for any person suffering from a loss. Ask questions that might help him say how he feels. Give him time to come up with some answers. If he cannot find the words, especially when he is young, it can be helpful to say, “When I lose a pet I feel sad because I remember all the wonderful times I had with him and feel like I will miss those in the future.” This is not telling him how he should feel, but instead giving him some ideas on why he feels so sad.
  • Be with him and be understanding through all stages of grief. The number one thing you can do for your child as he is grieving is to just be present with him. It is what he needs more than anything. This will allow him time to move from disbelief to anger to negotiation to depression and finally to acceptance.

Humans will never be without loss in life. That is why it is so important for children to learn how to grieve. You can help them learn this while they are still in the early stages of life when they want help from parents and caregivers. It is so much better for them to be sad while you are able to be right by their side than for them to find themselves older and without these healthy life tools.

Dangerous Pets Families Should Avoid

There is nothing more precious than watching your children interact and play with a beloved family pet. Whether it’s a bouncy kitten or a cuddly cocker spaniel, you want to ensure that your children are safe in the presence of a family pet.

Unfortunately, not all animals respond well to the often active and energetic nature of children. Choosing the safest pet for your child means considering the risks that come with different animals before you pick out a new addition for your family.

Your child may be intrigued by a slithering snake at the zoo, but until he is older, avoid adding any reptiles as the family pet, recommends Sujatha Ramakrishna, pediatric psychiatrist and author of Raising Kids Who Love Animals. This means hold off on purchasing turtles, lizards, snakes and frogs while your children are young.

According to Ramakrishna, many reptiles carry salmonella bacteria, which cause life-threatening illnesses in young children. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control advises that children under five completely avoid direct contact with all kinds of reptiles. Even for older children, careful hand washing after handling reptiles is essential.

Pocket pets, such as hamsters, guinea pigs and gerbils, also carry salmonella, says Ramakrishna. “These animals do not like being handled and often bite children,” she says.

“Toddlers and infants should never be left alone with any kind of animal,” says Ramakrishna. “Any pet is dangerous for kids if parents don’t properly supervise their interactions and educate their children about the proper way to handle and care for their non-human family member.”

Although pets teach responsibility, nurturing and assertiveness to children, parents must be choosy when determining a good fit for the entire family.

Ferrets have become a popular family pet in recent years, but parents and nannies should be leery of the risks of adopting this furry friend as a member of the family when children are small. These cute little critters have a significant incident history of biting young children, more than dogs and other species, according to Bruce Coston, Virginia-based veterinarian and author of The Gift of Pets.

“It appears that they are more likely to attack when they smell milk on the breath of a youngster,” says Coston. “The increase in bite risk is significant.”

Beyond the risk of biting, many pets, like reptiles, can spread disease and infection or trigger allergies. In addition to reptiles and ferrets, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents with children under the age of 5 avoid the following animals as pets:

  • reptiles (turtles, snakes, lizards, iguanas)
  • rodents (hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, chinchillas, hedgehogs, prairie dogs, mice, rats)
  • amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders)
  • baby poultry (chicks, ducklings, goslings, turkeys)
  • monkeys
  • illegal exotic animals

In addition to illegal exotic animals, Coston advises against wild species, such as raccoons and wolf hybrids. It is likely that a pet raccoon could be a carrier of intestinal parasites that are fatal for humans, says Coston. “Wild species can become aggressive without warning and can have personality changes as they mature,” he says. “This includes wolf hybrids – which seldom make good pets and should never be a pet in a household with children.

Even though your family may crave originality, when your children are young, it is often a better choice to stick with the basics, such as puppies and kittens. Primarily, do your research before bringing home the family’s new addition.

Parenting experts at Nemours KidsHealth recommend parents and nannies do the following before determining the best pet for the family:

  • Read pet guides explaining the various personalities, tendencies and backgrounds of specific breeds in detail. For example, some dog breeds (such as certain terriers or Chihuahuas) are known for their feistiness and are considered less tolerant of kids — especially if they aren’t raised with kids from puppyhood. Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, on the other hand, have excellent reputations as family-friendly dogs. Also look around for guides (at your local bookstore, on the Internet, or at animal shelters) that explain how to take care of different kinds of pets. If you’re interested in rabbits, the House Rabbit Society is an excellent resource and offers printed materials on rabbits and rabbit care.
  • Set up a consultation visit with a veterinarian to talk about what you’re looking for in a pet and to ask questions.
  • If you’re thinking about buying a dog from a pet store, first ask where they get their dogs and puppies. Some pet stores purchase dogs from “puppy mills,” where they may be poorly bred and, therefore, may have physical and/or behavioral problems. It’s often better to buy a dog from a private breeder or adopt one from an animal shelter.
  • Ask neighbors and friends about their experiences with various kinds of pets.

Germ Alert: How to Keep Toys Clean

All day long, your children handle dolls, trucks and trains while crawling and running through your home with their prized possessions in tow. Even though their smiles and giggles indicate that these toys make them happy, the reality is that their toys can make them sick if they are not cleaned on a regular basis.

It’s likely that your child’s toys are exposed to germs from sticky fingers, slobbery cuddles and pet hair and dander that reside throughout your home. Ensure that your children are safe and healthy by taking extra care to keep toys free from germ exposure.

Hard Toys

Finding safe chemicals to clean your child’s trains, trucks and wooden dolls can be a challenge, especially because most toys head straight to the mouth when you’re dealing with babies and toddlers. The last thing you want is to have your child consume harmful cleaning chemicals.

An easy fix is to put hard, non-electric toys in the top rack of your dishwasher, suggest the experts at Cardinal Maids. The high heat of the water will sanitize the toys and you can opt to run a sanitize, no-soap cycle. Another option is to soak hard toys that are too awkwardly shaped to fit in the dishwasher in a diluted tub of bleach and water. If you prefer to avoid using bleach, opt for a vinegar solution to deodorize and clean your child’s favorite toys.

For a quick cleaning method while on the go, use baby wet wipes to sanitize hard toys that cannot be immersed in water or natural cleaning solutions.

Soft Toys

That treasured doll, stuffed animal or plush ball your child clings to has probably seen better days. Germs, sweat, grime and slobber all seep into soft toys, festering bacteria and becoming a harmful playmate for your child. If the soft toy does not have plastic components, simply toss it in with your next load of laundry and wash on a gentle cycle. If you prefer not to use laundry detergent, the experts at Cardinal Maids recommend sprinkling baking soda and pouring in a few capfuls of distilled vinegar in the washing machine to help kill off those germs.

Many plush animals and dolls can be dried on low, but if you are concerned about keeping all arms and legs in tact, an air dry solution may be the best option for your little one’s prized possession.

If you have a steam cleaner lying around, it can be used for more than just the floors. Use the steam cleaner to deep clean plush toys and fluff those with batteries.

You can also spot clean plush toys with an extreme dusting method. Simply place the plush toy in a sealed plastic bag with cornstarch and baking soda. You can swap out the cornstarch with baby powder if you prefer. Shake the bag to coat the soft toy and leave it in the bag for one to two hours to absorb any odors. Once you remove the toy, brush it lightly or use the vacuum cleaner hose to remove the powder and reveal a fresh and clean plush doll or toy.

Electronic Toys

Cleaning electronics is not always the easiest task. You can’t douse them with water or scrub with a sponge to remove the germs. The experts at Cardinal Maids recommend using a canned air duster to remove dirt, grime and crumbs from small grooves and buttons. If you have resistant stains or dirt still present on the toy, take a microfiber cloth and put a few drops of soap or vinegar on it to wipe down the surface thoroughly.

Beware, though, if the toy has a rusty battery compartment. You can remove minor rusting with dishwashing soap and a scrub pad, recommends Sarah Gould, lead curatorial researcher at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, Texas. “If rust remains, a little mineral oil might be used with the scrub pad or a paste made of baking soda, salt and water,” she says. “Be careful not to scrub too hard or you may remove paint and you don’t want your child to have a toy with flaking paint.”

The best option, though, is to get rid of toys containing rust to reduce the risk to your child’s health.

20-Minute Fitness: How to Get a Family Workout on a Busy Schedule

In a busy household, it can seem like there’s never time to spare to run to the gym or even walk on the treadmill. Between caring for the needs of the children and maintaining your own commitments as a nanny or parent, finding 20 minutes a day to work on your fitness can be a challenge.

However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial to ensuring you have the energy to keep up with energetic toddlers and crawling infants. Instead of giving up on a fitness boost, consider involving the family in your daily workouts with a commitment of only 20 minutes a day.

Making Fitness a Priority, Convenient

Taking 20 minutes for busy moms, dads and nannies can seem impossible, but you must write it into your daily calendar as an appointment, says Dee Whittington, personal trainer and owner of Dee Train In-Home Personal Training. “Realizing the importance of doing it to have more sustained energy to make it through your crazy, rearing days helps,” she says. “Getting up 20 minutes earlier is an option, or opt for lunch time, during nap time, or after you put the children to bed if you’re not a morning person. You can find the time if you really want to.”

If you prefer to exercise with a group, recruit your family and children to be your fitness buddies. Incorporate exercise into your daily chores and routines by multitasking. “You can burn an average of 200 calories per hour while doing general household cleaning,” says Whittington. “To enhance and get more out of doing household chores, do light cardio and strength training in between chores.”

For instance, after folding the clothes, you and the kids can do 20 pushups and one minute of jumping jacks. Then, after vacuuming the living room, jog in place and do a minute of abdominal bicycles. “This will give you more bang for your buck as far as calorie burn,” says Whittington. “Your kids will probably also enjoy watching you and want to join in on the fun.”

Create your own personalized exercises while completing household duties, too. Vacuuming can be especially good for burning calories if you focus on performing a lunge while you engage your core and arm muscles on every motion and switch arms and use large sweeping actions, says Fitness Trainer Jeff Archibald with BoldFitness.com. “The same is true for dusting, laundry and cooking,” he says. “All can be performed in a static and/or dynamic squat, dead lift or lunge position.”

If the house has a stairwell, take the stairs two at a time while carrying laundry or groceries, recommends Archibald. “Every little bit helps,” he says.

Conditioning for the Entire Family

Completing a 20 minute workout is really all you need for general conditioning if you have an integrated approach and are doing it with enough intensity, says Whittington. “Interval or circuit training and doing full body exercises would work the best,” she says.

An easy example would be four exercises repeated four times, doing as many reps as you can do in 60 seconds and resting 15 to 20 seconds in between. “It is very important to do at least a three to five minute warm-up, like light jogging in place and arm circles,” says Whittington. “This will get the muscles warm and ready for activity.”

For the next 20 minutes, Whittington recommends any of the following workouts:

  • Forward lunge with bicep curls into shoulder presses: Alternate legs for lunges and use dumbbells appropriate for your strength level. If you don’t have any weights at home, use soup cans or water bottles. In 60 seconds, complete as many reps as possible and record your number.
  • Pushups with knees to elbows: Pushup and then when in high plank, pull your right knee in to touch your left elbow, then move to the other side. Pull your knees in to your elbows between each rep. In 60 seconds, complete as many reps as possible and record your number.
  • Around the world squats: Position your feet a little wider than hip width apart. Touch your finger tips to the floor while keeping your weight shifted into your heels so your knees do not extend over your toes, then as you come back to standing shift your weight to balls of your feet and hop with arms extended over head. First hop laterally to the right, repeat the squat and hop back, repeat the squat and hop left, then repeat the squat and hop forward to finish, so you’re essentially making a box or going “around the world.” In 60 seconds, complete as many reps as possible and record your number.
  • Russian twist: In a seated position with shoulders back and chin up, make a ball with your hands and lean back as far as you feel like you can while still feeling stable. Touch your balled hands down by each hip, then cross over hips to tap the floor on the other side, alternating back and forth. You can hold a weight to add intensity or lift your heels off the floor. If lifting your heels bothers your lower back, keep them on the floor. In 60 seconds, complete as many reps as possible and record your number.

Any workout you choose for 20 minutes is better than leading a sedentary life. “Great 20 minute workouts are best when you essentially work the entire body and all muscle groups,” says Whittington.

Co-Ed Time: Gender-Neutral Activities for Kids

As a nanny, it is often difficult to find activities and games that will interest all of the children in your care. The boys may not want to play house and the girls are not always interested in rolling around monster trucks. However, there are many gender-neutral activities that will engage your children, regardless of gender, and teach them to work together and embrace the co-ed time.

Get Physical

Boys and girls may have different physical abilities, but any type of active game or sport can engage your co-ed group. Launch a game of kickball, soccer, baseball or football in the backyard or at a local park to help your little ones learn how to work together and get fit at the same time. According to research published by Athabasca University, sports with the highest participation across gender are typically the most neutral ones, such as swimming, biking, hiking, running and soccer.

According to Joyce Mikal-Flynn, associate nursing professor at Sacramento State University, physical activities are ideal for both boys and girls because they do not push children into a category that is pre-prescribed based on gender bias. “It is simply the opening up of activities and the variety from more sedate to physical activities while allowing children to participate naturally rather than being prescriptive,” she says. “In school or at a party, free play or free socialization is great on so many levels. It is a learning tool to develop social skills, problem solving, creativity and is awesome for brain development and health.”

Free Play

That being said, it can be exhausting to have an activity planned at all times. Although structure is beneficial for children, allowing them time to play freely as co-eds can help them develop their own gender-neutral activities as well. “Although you want to be as gender-neutral as possible, it may be virtually impossible to keep children from engaging in gender-specific play,” says Mikal-Flynn. “I think the biggest part is for a parent to guide and stay out of the way.”

Opening up the playroom for free play gives your children the chance to explore toys and games suitable for both genders. You provide the tools and the toys and let them have at it. For example, stock a room with blocks, puzzles, stuffed animals and matching games. There is no harm in adding gender-specific toys, such as dolls and trucks. You may be surprised that girls may gravitate toward “boy” toys and vice versa. The key is to let kids of both genders decide what they want to play with during free play.

A Splash of Color

For parties and even classroom activities, fun with colors will appeal to both boys and girls. The options to create artwork and mix and match colors are endless, according to Susie Monday, education consultant and author of The Missing Alphabet: The Parent’s Guide to Developing Creative Thinking in Kids.

Monday suggests the following “color” activities for gender-neutral play dates and get-togethers:

  • Throw a color-themed party where kids help decorate rooms with crepe paper and streamers
  • Create collage projects from magazines and newspapers, highlighting their favorite color
  • Add food coloring to shaving cream to make colorful paintings
  • Break out kaleidoscopes to look through, or create your own with colored cellophane wrapped around cardboard rolls
  • Launch a color treasure hunt throughout the neighborhood

Regardless of gender, it’s important to stimulate brain activity by exposing children to lines, shapes, colors, movement, sound, space, light, texture and rhythm, says Monday.

Imagination Station

Both little boys and girls have wild imaginations. Encourage their creative minds with gender-neutral imaginative role plays and performances. Ask each child to choose an animal and help them piece together dress up clothes or costumes made from cardboard to mimic their favorite reptile, mammal or canine. You could also launch a career day dress-up party by reflecting on their future goals. If Sally wants to be a doctor and Jake wants to be a cowboy, prepare them for the workforce by helping them dress the part. If you let them know that the sky is the limit, they may not feel tempted to retreat into gender-specific or stereotypical careers for the imaginative play time.

Spruce up the dress-up time by encouraging your children to act the part. Ask your cowboy to wrangle in his crew and your doctor to sing a silly song to cheer up her patients. Kids, regardless of gender, will enjoy imagining the future and hopefully will learn to work together during co-ed play.

Taking Turns: Tips for Teaching Toddlers How to Share

If your toddler is constantly spouting out “no” or “mine,” resist the urge to chalk it up to the terrible twos. Even though this is the age when a toddler begins to crave independence and freedom, it is also a crucial age to teach him how to share and cooperate with others.

With creative games and lessons on sharing, you can instill an important character trait in your little one and change the “mine” to “ours.”

Make Sharing Fun

Toddlers love to engage in games and floor-centered activities. Use these opportunities to teach sharing and instill the value of taking turns.

The classic game of memory is fun for all ages, but it can also teach your toddler the importance of waiting patiently while others take turns. As you play the game, verbally remind your toddler that “it’s my turn” and “now, it’s your turn.” When you make the actions second nature, your toddler won’t even realize that he is learning how to cooperate with others effectively.

Building blocks can also engage your toddler in learning how to share. Instead of allowing him or her to build her own creation, launch a game of stacking the blocks as high as possible, one at a time. Just as your toddler must wait for her turn during games such as Memory, she must also wait to add a block to the stack until after you or another child has taken a turn. When you observe your little one waiting patiently and working together with others, provide praise and specifically point out that you appreciate her patience while waiting for her turn.

According to Christina Steinorth-Powell, California-based psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life: Gentle Reminders for Better Relationships, games provide an interactive lesson for toddlers that will help them in the future. “In each of these games, you are role modeling turn taking behavior,” she says. “Stacking blocks teaches sharing and also introduces the concept that sometimes activities are more fun when we share them with others.”

Allow your child to practice these turn taking and sharing skills with others often – at preschool or on play dates – to expose him to the necessity of sharing in social settings. To test your child’s ability to put others first, contact neighborhood parents or fellow nannies and arrange for an afternoon of games that require sharing. “When you see your toddler responding appropriately, be sure to provide positive reinforcement – a smile or an applaud – to help reinforce his good behavior,” says Steinorth-Powell.

Teaching children to take turns introduces the concept of sharing and how to let others come first, says Steinorth-Powell. “It teaches children not to be selfish or greedy and understand that there’s enough for everyone and that everyone can enjoy things. They learn that sometimes an experience can even be more fun if we share it with another person.”

There are some steps you can take to avoid difficult moments when your child is resistant to sharing or throws a temper tantrum at the opportunity to share. Childcare experts at the Utah County Health Department recommend the following:

  • If another child is coming over to play, allow your toddler to put away several choice toys before the visit. Be sure to explain that these are toys that do not have to be shared with everyone and that other toys can be shared with friends instead.
  • If your child continues to refuse to share, avoid punishing him. Instead, tell him that you are sad and disappointed.
  • Give your toddler time to work things out with other kids. If your child doesn’t share, other kids will also express their disappointment and your toddler will eventually get the idea that it is not nice not to share.

Be a Sharing Partner

Toddlers learn by imitation, so if they see you sharing your belongings, taking turns and offering items to others, they will ultimately follow suit in time. Childcare experts at the Utah County Health Department suggest turning every day activities into opportunities to teach your child about sharing, such as:

  • Start by offering your toddler a bite of your food as an act of sharing. Say to your child, “I would like to share my banana with you.”
  • As you are sharing, use the word “share” to explain what you are doing.
  • When your toddler shares, praise him or her to offer positive reinforcement.
  • Reward your child when he shares. Give a hug or high five to express your satisfaction.

It’s important for nannies and parents to recognize that your toddler will not always follow suit right away, but if you show patience and reinforce the value of sharing through modeling, he will ultimately see the value. “If your toddler isn’t adjusting to the sharing principle, don’t be dismayed,” warn the childcare experts at the Utah County Health Department. “Your child will learn to share eventually – learning to share is all a part of normal childhood development and those kids who learn to share early may do better socially as they get older.”

Interview Tips for Nannies

Congrats! You’ve landed an interview with a family to begin or continue your career as a nanny. Interviews can be nerve wracking, though, especially when you combine general nervousness with apprehension about showing your confidence in your skills and abilities.

With some preparation and tips from the pros, land the job of your dreams by showing off your “wow” factor in the interview.

Do Your Research

Preparation is key when interviewing with a prospective family. Before you even show up on their doorstep, do your research to ensure you are asking the right questions. If you have been referred by an agency or a friend, find out as much as you can about the family and the children beforehand. Are they seeking a part-time nanny, live-in nanny or full-time nanny? How many children will be in your care? It’s important for you to evaluate whether or not the job is a good fit for you as well as the family, so the more research you do prior to the interview, the more confident you can be in selling your abilities.

While researching, prepare questions you can ask that will help both you and the prospective parents make an informed decision about whether or not the position is a good fit for everyone.

Sample questions may include information about:

  • Number of Children in Your Care
  • Specific Needs of the Children and Family
  • Hours/Days Off/Start Date
  • Responsibilities in Addition to Childcare, such as Cooking or Cleaning
  • Transportation Needs
  • Discipline Strategies and/or Childcare Expectations and Guidelines
  • Salary/Compensation Package

While preparing questions to ask, it is also helpful to prepare for questions you may be asked by the potential employers, such as:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Detail Your Qualifications
  • Why did you choose to become a nanny?
  • What were your likes/dislikes in previous positions?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses as a nanny?
  • Why do you think you are well-suited for our family?
  • What are your personal philosophies regarding childcare?
  • What are some challenges and rewards you have faced while working as a nanny?

While practicing your responses, keep in mind that it is important to refrain from divulging too much personal information about yourself that could be used for potential discrimination, such as age, marital status and ethnic background. Stay focused on your role as a nanny and give answers that pertain to your potential employment with the family.

As a rule of thumb, it’s crucial to show your enthusiasm for child rearing by providing examples of successful interactions you have had with children in your care. Detail activities you have enjoyed in previous positions and examples of how you formed a bond with children as a nanny. Be yourself and let your love for your career shine through.

Be Honest, Prompt and Professional

When preparing for an interview as a nanny, keep in mind that first impressions are crucial. Make transportation arrangements to ensure you are prompt or early to the interview and come prepared with your resume, letters of recommendation and a nanny binder that contains activities and educational documents you have prepared and used in the past. Be completely honest when preparing these materials so that there will not be any surprises in the case that parents check references and verify certifications and degrees.

According to the Association of Premier Nanny Agencies, a white lie here and there is often discovered and can prevent nannies from obtaining employment with families and representation by agencies. “Some resume claims fall into gray areas, but it’s easy to verify college degrees. We do it routinely when checking resumes,” claims APNA.

Honesty is also important when making a first impression. Show off your true colors, but do so in a modest way by dressing the part for the interview. When you are interviewing, prospective parents will be observing how you carry yourself, whether or not your mannerisms and polite manners match the role model they want for their children and your level of confidence. Make sure that your hair and dress are professional and well kept and avoid wearing bold and bright jewelry or accessories that can be distracting.

Evaluate Your Preferences

Even though you may be eager to find a nanny job, sometimes waiting for a good fit is a better option. It’s important to evaluate what you value in a family and ensure during the interview that the family meets your expectations as well.

Beyond location, salary, duties and hours, the International Nanny Association recommends considering the following before, during and after the interview to evaluate if the family is a good fit:

  • Allergies to pets
  • Personal, political or religious convictions
  • Lifestyle preferences
  • Parenting philosophies

When interviewing, it is necessary to sell your skills and talents, but it is also a good idea to make sure the family’s qualities, dynamic and philosophies match yours to avoid potential problems down the road.

How to Create a Nanny Household Book

Being organized makes a nanny’s life inherently easier. There are so many details she has to keep track of every day to keep her family’s life and household running smoothly. The most user friendly way to organize all these details is to use a nanny household book. But what exactly is a nanny household book? Simply put, it’s a notebook kept in a central location, usually the kitchen, which can be updated often and easily accessed by everyone in the home. So what should go into your nanny household book? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Your notebook should be customized to the needs of your family. However, there are standard sections that are helpful to everyone.

Nanny Contract: Your signed nanny contract should be in your nanny household book. You’d be surprised at how often throughout the year you’ll need to reference it as questions come up about what you and your family originally agreed to. Your employers will likely need to reference it also.

Nanny Time Sheets: Although you don’t punch a time clock, it’s still important for you to keep track of the number of hours you work during the week. There are a couple ways you can do this. You can track your hours the old fashioned way by simply writing down when you start and end work each day, or you can use one of the many online and smart phone applications that can track hours for you. If you use one of the applications, make sure you print out the weekly results and keep the report in your nanny household book. It’s always a smart idea to have a hard copy for reporting purposes.

Household Rules: If you have older kids, there are probably plenty of household rules in place. The parents may limit how much screen time they’re allowed, what chores must be completed before they can play, or what friends are allowed over. Creating a list of these rules and keeping it handy will deter a lot of the “but Mom said I could” arguments you have with older kids. It’s a lot easier to simply say “Go look at the house rules” than it is to try to win a debate over what is and isn’t allowed.

Emergency Contact Sheet: This is one sheet you hope you’ll never need to use, but if you do, you’re so happy that you have it. The Emergency Contact Sheet should include all the information you’d need to effectively handle a medical emergency with your charge. It should include information about the child’s medical history, any known allergies, all medications, doctor’s contact information and the parents’ hospital preferences.

Pet Information Sheet: This information sheet makes sure you have all the necessary information you need to get proper care for an ill or lost pet. It should include the pet’s medical history, allergies, vaccinations and veterinarian’s contact information. It should also include the pet’s license number and locator chip ID number. It’s a good idea to include a recent picture of the pet so you don’t have to search for one if the pet becomes lost.

Vendor Contact Sheet: If you’re the person who calls to get things fixed around the house, this list will save you time and frustration when you’re in need of a repairman. Before something breaks, find out from the parents who they use to repair or service their household appliances, like the refrigerator, dishwasher and hot water heater. Also include the companies that handle the utilities, including water, trash, gas, electricity and cable. Lastly, don’t forget general contractors, such as the plumber, electrician and handyman.

Child Contact Sheet: This is the place to collect all the names, phone numbers and email addresses of the people you need to stay in contact with around your charge. This includes teachers, tutors, coaches, team parents and activity leaders. It’s also a good idea to list your charge’s friends, their contact information and the names of the friend’s parents. Much of this information will be kept in your phone too, but it’s always a good idea to periodically print it out and keep a hard copy in case of an emergency. Also, if you keep the information in a central location, both you and the parents can have access to it.

Master Grocery List: If you do the family’s grocery shopping, having a master grocery list can be a real time saver. Most families buy the same foods week after week. Instead of creating a list from scratch each week, you can use the Master Grocery List to simply mark off what you need and then add any special purchases. Keeping it in the nanny household book makes it easy for the parents to let you know when they’ve used the last of a staple or when they have a special request.

Having a well thought out nanny household book can save you time and frustration as you move through your day. By getting the information you need organized and keeping it handy, you’ll be prepared for whatever may come up.