Not every family was that easy, of course, and over the next few years, I became quite adept at the “tear-free goodbye”. These tips served me well throughout my babysitting years and even transferred nicely when I began working as a teacher and then a full- time nanny.
Here are my top tips for ensuring that this (often tense) transition goes smoothly for everyone.
Tip #1: Get your toes wet first
Parents: If your child isn’t often in another person’s care, you can start with a trial run where you stay with your child and their caregiver until you’re both comfortable. You can start off by doing something together with the children or by quietly working on something in the corner while they get in the groove, then say your goodbyes. Another good option is to choose a playspace that your child is already familiar with, taking some variables out of the equation for them.
Caregivers: Trial runs are a great way to get to know the children when they are at their best. They will feel much more comfortable with you when they know that their parent is right there, letting them relax into their time with you. It’s also an ideal way to ensure that this job is something that you can handle (if not, don’t be afraid to speak up!).
*MeTime message: Every booking has a 15-minute buffer window for transition time. You can arrive up to 15 minutes early for your booking without being charged to help you and your child get comfortable with the transition.
Tip #2: Prepare activities in advance
Parents: Plan a super fun activity for your kids to do with their caregiver once you leave. Pack Twister or Headbandz, bring your favorite toy, or choose anything that your child can get excited about beforehand. Give them something to look forward to, and then be sure to talk about all the fun they will have throughout the day!
Caregivers: Break out your Mary Poppins bag! If your child is with you, plan an activity that they love and invite their new friend to play with them. And if you’re providing care in your home, be sure that your kids have the option of putting away anything they do not want their new friend to play with. This will (hopefully) prevent meltdowns over someone else touching their favorite toy.
Tip #3: Keep goodbyes short and sweet
Parents: When the moment of departure arrives, remember this phrase: “Short goodbyes, long hellos”. Keep your goodbye as short and sweet as possible: “Mommy is going out for a bit, but I will be back after dinner. Have fun with (caregiver)! I love you!”. Offer a hug or a kiss (or both), and then walk out the door. There may be tears, protests, and perhaps even a full-blown meltdown, but rest assured that your child (AND YOU!) can handle this.
Caregivers: Rule #1: Assume there will be tears. Tears are a normal reaction to a parent leaving. If Mom or Dad look frazzled, that’s your cue to step in and offer some helpful hints, like “Ok, sweetie! Give mommy a big hug and kiss; she’ll be back in a little while. Bye, Mommy! We’ll see you soon!”
Tip #4: Empathize, then redirect attention
Parents: It’s completely normal for your child to protest your departure (“But I don’t WANT you to LEAVE! Please stay with meeeeee!”). When this happens, a little empathy goes a long way. Say you’ll miss them too, and remind them about all of the fun activities s/he will do with their new friend. It may also help to allow your child the option of going to a window and waving at the car as you drive off. Make sure you remember to wave back!
Caregivers: Your best bet after the parent leaves is always going to be #1: Empathy, then #2: redirection. Redirection is not always the answer, but in this case it is often the best (and quickest) way to ensure you don’t have a disastrous drop-off session. If you find yourself with a distraught child, saying something like, “You seem like you’re feeling very sad. It’s so hard when Daddy leaves, but he’ll be back in a little while. Daddy always comes back!”, followed by “ Ok, let’s go check out those bubbles!” :)
So there you have it! A few simple tips for making the parent-to-caregiver transition go as smoothly as possible. Enjoy your MeTime!