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I'm very close to the toddler I nanny for, but I've taken a different position. How do I help her transition to a new nanny?

Writer: Alexandra Levine, MS, CCC-SLP

Clinical Expert: Alexandra Levine, MS, CCC-SLP

Q What is the best way to help a toddler transition to a new nanny? I'm very close to the toddler I nanny for. I see her more often than her own parents. Now I have to transition into a new job and won't be able to care for her. I'd be happy to see her often after and make it a slow transition, but her parents think it's best to not see her for a couple months after. For an already socially anxious toddler (and kids in general), what is the best approach to help her transition?

For anxious children and young children in general, any time there’s going to be a transition, preparation is key. Talking about it ahead of time, being open about it, and being concrete are important. The parents should be very clear: “Our nanny is going to a new job.” They can even invite some questions, like: “Do you want to ask her where she’ll be going?” or “Do you have any questions for her?” This way, the child will feel involved and prepared. I wouldn’t do it too far ahead of time because time is pretty abstract for young kids. Often a visual countdown can be very helpful. This can be something as simple as paper chains that each morning they can rip off and say, “Three more days, and then she’s going to her new job.” It can also be helpful to use important activities or events in the child’s life to make time more meaningful (for example, after your field trip; after your birthday). 

Introducing the new nanny ahead of time could be helpful too. You can arrange a visit or just a phone or video call, so they can know who’s going to be coming in. Anything you can do to help the child have ownership of the situation is great, like saying: “Can you show them your room? Can you show them where we keep the cereal?” This way, they’ll feel like a part of the transition and not just like it’s happening to them.

You could also try other ways to help them think through what’s going to happen, like using books or TV shows or even playing it out with dolls or toys. That way they can anticipate what the transition might look like or feel like. You can plan out what they might show the new nanny when she arrives, or what they’ll say to her.   

It is important to be concrete and definitive about the transition (for instance, “Our nanny has a new job. She will not take care of you and your brother anymore.”). However, you can still remain a part of the child’s life. In fact, it can be beneficial, so it doesn’t seem like people will just disappear from their life. The idea is that people may go on to new schools or new jobs, but we can still talk to them and see them occasionally. While you want the child to settle into her new routine with the new nanny, visiting or calling from time to time can help her stay connected with you.

Finally, parents often have a lot of their own concerns and project a lot of feelings that the child may or may not be having. Some children may express sadness whereas others may not show much of a reaction at all. There is no right way to feel. What is important is to be open and concrete, welcome questions, and continue to validate their feelings. In general, try to just remain neutral and see what the child brings to the table.

This article was last reviewed or updated on October 27, 2022.