Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Questions To Ask Your Nanny

If you are planning to get a nanny for your baby, you should be sure that you are asking the right questions during your search for the right person. Unlike hiring a babysitter, the nanny will play a significant role in your family's life, so you need to be sure that the person you are hiring shares your values.

Be sure that you have a thorough background check done on anyone who makes it to your final cut. One way to avoid the legwork on this yourself is to go through an agency. If you do that, make sure you get a few referrals from satisfied customers and that you check out the agency to see what their record is. Be sure that they are a legitimate business, for example. Ask them what information they check on the nannies they hire out. If you do not have the benefit of an agency, then you will need to do the work yourself. Ask the person you are interviewing for every place where she has lived for the past five years. Check out the police records for those areas. Ask for references from co-workers as well as other parents.

You will need to ask nanny candidates some basic questions about childcare. Find out if he or she knows what to do when a child is choking. Ask about potential meals for children of various ages. Be sure that the person you are hiring knows CPR and other basic first-aid. (When you hire someone, you should pay for that person to go to a refresher course.)

Then you will need to get down to the tougher questions. Think about your children. You will be trusting this person with your children for a great number of hours. You will need to find out what the person will do in various situations. If your child is prone to refusing to eat, find out what the nanny would do to get them to eat or whether or not she would leave the decision to the child. There is no universal right or wrong here; the nanny should do whatever you think is best.

Be sure that you cover discipline. It was not so long ago (and still exists in some families) when babysitters and nannies were allowed to spank children. Most parents today would find that abhorrent, but you need to be sure that you go over the appropriate discipline for your children, asking the nanny what she would do in certain situations.

Then you should discuss any other topics that are important to you. A friend of mine is a devout Catholic. Her Jamaican nanny started explaining voo-doo to my friend's children and telling them that it was an acceptable religious practice. While adults can debate the merits of the nanny's points, the children do not understand the complexities of religious discussion. The nanny refused to stop sharing her religion with the children, so she was fired. If you have similar proclivities about religion, culture, or politics, be sure that you get those issues out in the open with the children.

Also ask the nanny candidates what they believe is their role in the overall household. That answer, of course, varies with what you want. Perhaps you are looking for someone who will take of the children only. Perhaps you are looking for someone who will do laundry as well. Be clear about your expectations and ask the nanny candidates that they be clear about whether or not they can handle the duties.

In addition to these sensitive topics, try to get a feel for how the nanny would expect to spend the day with the children. Ask him or her for what a typical day may look like with your little ones. Ask the candidates to share with you a few ideas that they have about activities they could do with the children.

If you have enough time, you should have the nanny candidates come in and meet with the children. Sometimes a person may be a perfectly acceptable nanny but will not be able to mesh with the children. Of course, if you have a baby, that may be more difficult, but you should watch the nanny. Does she feel comfortable with the baby? Is he nervous? Watch for signs and trust your instincts.

By Julia Mercer

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