Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How to Conduct a Behavioral Interview With A Potential Nanny

Dear Be the Best Nanny Newsletter,
After reading and responding to your post about an abusive caregiver on Monday I wrote and posted the following.
Thanks, Lisa Werth

How to Do A Behavioral Interview With A Potential Nanny
By Lisa Werth

As a long time nanny, I'm aware of sad stories involving the neglect and abuse of children left in the care of a nanny, an au pair, babysitter, or other caregiver. I understand the concerns faced by parents when they need to put a baby or young toddler into the hands of someone else with the hopes that it is a safe and secure decision.

Many agencies and nanny related websites will provide you with various lists of questions you can ask potential caregiver candidates on interviews. I've put together a list of common behavioral-interview questions. What you want to look for as you listen to responses is how well candidates manage their time, communication, job duties, and demands. Then determine if it fits into what you are looking for in an employee working in your home with your children.

Step 1
Choose questions from those below that you believe are important to the caregiver position in your home. Modify or add to the questions to make them work for you.

Step 2

* Age
* Race, ethnicity, or color
* Gender or sex
* Country of national origin or birth place
* Religion
* Disability
* Marital or family status or pregnancy

Many thanks to Bob King of Legally Nanny for including the information about labor laws above.

Step 3
Ask some of the following questions:
  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince parents to see things your way.

  • Can you describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation as a caregiver that demonstrated your coping skills?

  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem at work.

  • Give me an example of a time when the parents and you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.

  • Tell me about a time when you had to use your abilities to influence a parent's opinion.

  • Can you tell me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a rule or request by your employers with which you did not agree?

  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of your typical job description in order to get a job done.
  • Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split second decision.

  • What is your typical way of dealing with conflict?

  • Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with a child when they may have not liked the situation.

  • What was a difficult decision you had to made in the last year?

  • Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed.

  • Can you provide me with an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead?

  • Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset employer, parent, or supervisor.

  • Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.

  • Can you provide me with an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem?

  • Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.

  • Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.

  • Can you give me an example of a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision?

  • Please tell me about a time you had to quit a job, or was let go.

  • Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).
Always conduct a complete background check on a nanny. This includes criminal and department of motor vehicle. Ask to see proof of current CPR and First Aid Certification. Call references. If a nanny has a portfolio peruse it to see if they can back up what they have on their resume.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Passover Children's Books

Tonight is the celebration of Passover. Passover is a major Jewish festival that celebrates the freedom attained by the Hebrew people following their exodus from Egypt where they had been slaves for either 430 years or 210 years, depending on the scholarly conclusions one follows. During the seder tonight children learn the importance of telling and re-telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

Here are some Passover books that we didn't list last year. Consider borrowing them from the library or purchasing them below to prepare children for Passover.

Sammy Spider's First Passover
By Sylvia A. Rouss

Sammy the Spider's mother teaches him to make a web when theirs is laid waste by a "monster"a broom being used to ready the Shapiros' home for Passover. Though Sammy becomes fascinated by his mother's explanations of the holiday traditions, he is repeatedly told, "Spiders don't celebrate Passover. Spiders spin webs." Following instructions, Sammy completes a new web?and participates in the Shapiro family observance after all. Using cut-paper artwork made festive with cheery patterns, Kahn depicts a contemporary human family (complete with kitty), and a mother-son spider duo reminiscent of Eric Carle's creations. Though Rouss's text is lively and informative, her attempts to blend Passover basics with a rudimentary lesson on shapes (the first page terms this "a book of shapes") become somewhat jumbled and ultimately water down both aspects of the story. Ages 3-7. Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah
By Leslie Kimmelman

The Little Red Hen has gone through various versions and permutations, but surely this is the first time she has a Yiddish accent. Realizing it’s almost Passover, the Little Red Hen says, “Oy gevalt!” She needs matzah for her seder dinner, and that means growing wheat. Horse, Sheep, and Dog are not interested in helping. Harvesting? Again, nope. Milling? “We’re resting.” By now, the Little Red Hen realizes she’s dealing with a bunch of no-goodniks. She bakes the matzah (“according to Jewish law . . . in just eighteen minutes”) and then sets her seder table. Guess who arrives? “What chutzpah!” But then the Little Red Hen remembers the Haggadah’s words: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” Children familiar with Passover will get a kick out of this, and the ink-and-watercolor art amusingly captures both the Little Red Hen’s aggravation and the animals’ turnaround. Those really in the know might wonder about a sheep at a holiday table where lamb’s blood plays a major role, but, hey, at least none of the guests are pigs. Preschool-Grade 1. -- By Ilene Cooper

Click here for a longer list of children's books about passover from last year. Happy Passover!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Babysitter Still In Jail On Battery Charge

The Best Defense for Parents: How to Safely Hire a Nanny

A nanny contacted Be the Best Nanny Newsletter on facebook last week concerned about recent reports of an in-home childcare provider who committed crimes against a child. The babysitter is seen hitting a child on a nanny cam.

Here is a link to the video of the news story and of the nanny hitting a child:

A concerned nanny on facebook wrote to us: "This sad situation happened in my town, and is disturbing on many levels. I am sharing with you as I feel this needs to be addressed, although I am aware that similar situations have happened in years past. Parents need to know how to hire safe and professional nannies. Nannies need to understand basic child development and know how to deal with discipline issues. It just amazes me that these things happen."


1. Conduct Comprehensive Interviews
Although parents can start interviewing nanny candidates by exchanging emails or by speaking on the phone, parents should have an in-person interview before hiring a nanny. Find interview questions at:

2. Diligent Background Checks
Ask to see originals of the caregiver’s driver’s license, social security card, CPR/First Aid certificates, and diplomas. If the parents are hiring a caregiver without the assistance of a nanny referral agency they ought to perform inexpensive background checks themselves.

3. Criminal Checks
One of the advantages of using a reputable nanny placement agency is they know how to perform background checks and criminal checks. But parents can perform a criminal check on a nanny candidate themselves for about $50.

4. Call Reference Checks Personally
Even when parents hire a reputable nanny placement agency to help hire a caregiver, they should call the job seekers references themselves to ensure the references are valid and to ask the specific questions important to the parents.

1. Introduce their employers to their friends and family.
2. Show accountability.
3. Listen to the parents and honor the parents’ concerns.
4. Be open about anything concerning the children.
5. Do not gossip about the family.
6. Keep a daily log to communicate about the children.
7. Have informal weekly meetings to maintain open communication with parents about the children and the job.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Turning Palm Leaves into Palm Crosses for Nannies and Au Pairs

Today is Palm Sunday. Jesus came into the Jerusalem walking over the palms laid down by the people, but one week later died on a cross. Folding palms into crosses is a tradition that has been around for many years. Palms are passed out at most churches on Palm Sunday in America, but they are used worldwide in a variety of ways in the Palm Sunday service. We found two links explaining how to make palm crosses.

Click here to make a palm cross out of palm or paper. Click here for another set of instructions on how to make a palm cross.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Children's Books for Palm Sunday

Weekly Trip to the Library
By Maria Lopez, Nanny, Miami Florida

Tomorrow Christians celebrate Palm Sunday. On Palm Sunday Jesus entered Jerusalem. On Maundy Thursday was the Last Supper and betrayal. On Good Friday was the arrest, trial, crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus. Then on Easter Sunday Jesus rose from the grave. You don't have to be Christian to learn about the religious traditions of your charges. There are very few children's books on the topic of Palm Sunday. Here are two I like to share with children for Palm Sunday.

Little Colt's Palm Sunday
By Michelle Medlock Adams

In this unique story of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before Easter, the proud little donkey colt tells the story of how he was specially chosen to carry the Son of God into the city.

The Week That Led to Easter
By Joanne Larrison

This book is a wonderful, concise, and simple way to explain the events leading up to Easter to children. It covers all the major events in a clear way that children can understand. The illustrations are nice, too. Although the subject matter deals with extreme suffering and death, nothing in this book is scary.

Stop by next Saturday for more book reviews for nannies and au pairs.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bark Rubbings

Besides being fun children will learn to identify and describe patterns in bark that allow identification of different trees by doing bark rubbings.

You Will Need:
A few different types of trees

1. Give the child a sheet of paper.
2. Give the child a crayon and have the child peel the paper off the crayon they chose.
3. Hold the paper onto the bark of the tree.
4. Lay the crayon flat and rub it on the paper until an image of the bark is clear.
5. Now proceed to a different type of tree and do the same on another piece of paper.
7. Ask the child what are the characteristics of each type of bark that makes the rubbings appear different?

This kind of activity helps children notice the differences in plants and it's lots of fun.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More Springtime Activities for Nannies and Au Pairs

Simple Seed Sort

In this easy activitiy children will examine seeds for similarities and differences.

You Will Need:
A variety of seeds
Large pieces of paper


  1. Give children a large number of seeds and ask them to separate paper into two sections or draw two circles on a piece of paper.

  2. Ask them to organize the seeds into four distinctive groups (such as smooth and bumpy, long and round, fruits and vegetables, and so on). No seed can be left over.

  3. Now draw another circle on the paper. Try organizing seeds into three distinctive groups.

  4. Then try four distinctive groups.

  5. Have children explain why they chose the categories.

  6. As a challenge try grouping them even more specific groups.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Easy Springtime Science Experiments for Nannies and Au Pairs

In What Direction Do Seeds Grow?

It doesn't take much to actively engage children in fun springtime learning activities. Here is an easy science experiment to do with the children in their home.

You Will Need:
Two wide-mouth jars or clear containers
A piece of blotting paper long enough to line the inside of the jars
Paper towels

  1. Soak the beans overnight in water.
  2. Place the blotting paper snugly around the inside of each jar.
  3. Stuff crumpled paper towel in the middle of the jars, then fill them with water and wait until the paper towel absorbs as much of the water as it can.
  4. Pour off the excess water.
  5. Push a few of the beans in different positions (horizontal, diagonal, vertical) between the blotting paper and the glass in each jar. Keep them spaced apart and near the top of the jars.
  6. Have the children draw diagrams of the jars and the seeds and draw their predictions of how they think they will grow.
  7. Keep the jars out of direct sunlight and watch the seeds grow. Water the paper towels quite regularly so the seeds will keep moist.
  8. Once the seedlings have reached about an inch over the jars (about a week), lay one of the jars on its side.
  9. Have the kids draw diagrams of the jars and the seeds and draw their predictions of how they think they will grow now.
  10. In a few days have the children draw what happens. The stems of the seedlings should have bent so they could continue to grow upwards. Who predicted correctly? Why did this happen? What may be some reasons?

Plants have growth hormones that respond to the Earth's gravitational pull. This causes roots to always grow down and stems to always grow up. This is called geotropism.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When boys have nannies, they're more likely to become womanizers: psychiatrist Dennis Friedman

Daily News

Could your baby boy turn into a serial womanizer if you hire a nanny? That’s the claim of psychiatrist Dennis Friedman, who says handing off child-rearing prematurely could give your son double standards where women are concerned later in life, according to an article in the Daily Telegraph.

According to the 85-year-old Friedman, the author of “An Unsolicited Gift: Why We Do What We Do,” introducing a baby boy to a nanny introduces him to the notion of The Other Woman.

“It creates a division in his mind between the woman he knows to be his natural mother and the woman with whom he has real hands-on relationship: the woman who bathes him and takes him to the park and with whom he feels completely at one,” he said, according to the Daily Telegraph.

And baby girls also suffer, Friedman claims. Being cared for by a nanny or au pair means that later on, they’ll turn to drugs, alcohol, money or sex later on to fill the “vacuum of need” within them. Friedman thinks a baby should not have an au pair or nanny for the first year of life.

But working moms should take his advice with a large grain of salt, says Peter Kanaris, coordinator of public education for the New York State Psychological Association. “It’s kind of an old fashioned way of thinking,” he says. “I know of no data to support that idea.”

In order for a child to grow up with healthy social relationships, Kanaris says, he should form loving attachments with either one or multiple caregivers.

“Loving, consistent support is what is important,” Kanaris says. “And it doesn’t matter whether it is done by one person or more than one person, as long as it is consistent. The focus should be on providing for the child’s needs in a loving environment. There are many diverse possibilities for child rearing.”

And just what are the risk factors that could cause a little boy to morph into a serial womanizer?

“The plain truth of the matter is that we don’t know,” Kanaris says. “There is absolutely no scientific data out there on that. But even though we don’t know, that doesn’t mean that we can’t treat the condition.”

Nannies and au pairs, what do you think of this opinion? Do children suffer at the care of a nanny or au pair?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Springtime Observations

For Nannies and Au Pairs
By Melani Roewe

Spring brings wonderful little surprises peeking up at you as you venture out for a walk with children. Little shoots of pale green grasses, pointed spears of crocus and daffodil plants, and the teeniest white, pink, or blue five-petaled flowers of thrift and phlox are getting ready to emerge from their winter sleep. What an exciting season change this is!

1. A fun way to discover the changes taking place is to choose a spot in your employer's yard which you can keep a close eye on.
2. Chose a spot in the yard away from where people usually walk.
3. Use either a piece of string three-feet long or a coat hanger. If you use string, tie the string ends together to form a circle. If you use a coat hanger pull it into the shape of a circle. It doesn't need to be perfect.
4. Lay the circle you have made on the ground in the spot you have chosen. If necessary, weight the string or coat hanger down with some rocks to keep it in place.
5. Visit this spot every day. Notice the changes that are taking place.

  • Are insects living here?
  • Have any grasses begun growing that weren't there before?
  • Are any interesting plants poking through?

At first you might not see many changes. If this happens, try checking your spot once a week. As soon as you do notice changes occurring, visit the site more often.

6. Keep a diary, or Field Journal, of what goes on in your spot.
7. Draw pictures of the spot when you first chose it and pictures of the changes after they occur. Be sure to date and sign your pictures.

When you get tired of watching this spot, simply pick up your circle and try it somewhere else in your yard. Remember, though, to pick an area where people will not be tripping over the string or coat hanger!!!


  1. Lay out two or three circles in different areas of the yard.
  2. Record in your Field Journal the changes occurring in each circle. Be sure to take notes the same day for all of the spots.
  3. Are there fewer, more, or the same amount of insects living or traveling across each spot?
  4. Do the same grasses and plants grow in each?
  5. Do the grasses and plants grow at the same rate?
  6. Does each spot get the same amount of rain, sun, and shade?

Who knows? Maybe your observations will help your family choose the best site for a vegetable or flower garden, children's play area, or pet area!

Melani Roewe is a former news editor, Girl Scout Leader and Adult Trainer and K-12 educator who enjoys alpine wilderness hiking, birdwatching, fishing, snow- and water-skiing, swimming, and camping. She directs her church's Youth and Adult Choirs and lives in Oklahoma with her husband and two children.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Everything for Spring!

Weekly Trip to the Library

Book Review of Everything for Spring: A Complete Activity Book for Teachers of Young Children: Activities for March, April, and May by Kathy Charner (Editor), Joan Waites (Illustrator)

Today is the first day of Spring! Did you know that flowers, birds, and rain teach math, science, dramatic play, and language skills? Everything for Spring by Kathy Charner provides nannies with the tools to provide fun learning activities for young children this Spring. And parents love when their caregivers make an extra effort to actively involve their children in learning activities that encourage their curiosity, learning, and high self-esteem.

Everything for Spring by Kathy Charner arranges the Spring activities by month and age level. Spring activities include musical beanbags, jumping on air, building a car, making kites, hats, gelatin rainbows, cards, greenhouses, and even mud painting. There are finger plays, poems, songs, games, art, dramatic play, language, math, music and movement, cooking, and more.

We highly recommend borrowing this book from the library (or purchasing it above) to use with young children this Spring. There are three books in the series: Everything for Winter: An Early Childhood Curriculum Activity Book and Everything for Fall: An Early Childhood Curriculum Activity Book to use year round.

What are some of your favorite activities to do with children in the Spring?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Be Quoted in Best Nanny Newsletter -- Take Monthly Poll About Sleep Issues

Do You Get Enough Sleep?

A new study reports that napping can improve the brain’s ability to absorb new information. Do you ever have the opportunity to nap? Do you get enough sleep overall?

Roni Caryn Rabin reports on a new study showing the power of a power nap:

It turns out that toddlers are not the only ones who do better after an afternoon nap. New research has found that young adults who slept for 90 minutes after lunch raised their learning power, their memory apparently primed to absorb new facts.

Other studies have indicated that sleep helps consolidate memories after cramming, but the new study suggests that sleep can actually restore the ability to learn.

The April 2010 Be the Best Nanny Monthly Guide will discuss sleeping.

Be quoted by taking our nanny and au pair poll about sleep on the top right corner of our blog at:

The results will appear in the April 2010 issue of the nanny trade publication.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy Saint Patrick's Day Recipe

Mulligan Stew

Each year I cook corned beef, cabbage, and scones with the children I care for on St. Patrick's Day. But this year I wanted to try a new Irish dish. This speedy stew simmers in less than an hour, is named for the Irish, and can be enjoyed all year round. Mulligan stew is a thick soup containing whatever ingredients happen to be on hand when making it. Ingredients generally include meat, potatoes and a mixture of any type of vegetable that is available at the time.

8 ounces lean beef stew meat, cut into small pieces
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can Healthy Request Tomato Soup
1 cup water
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups (10 ounces) diced raw potatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced celery
  1. In a large skillet sprayed with butter-flavored cooking spray, brown meat for 10 minutes.

  2. Stir in tomato soup, water, and parsley flakes. Add carrots, potatoes, onion, and celery. Mix well to combine.

  3. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 35 to 45 minutes or until meat and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

Calories: 239 Fat: 7g Carbs: 24g Protein: 20g Fiber: 3g Sodium: 452mg

This recipe can be found in:

What are you making for St. Patrick's Day with your charges?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Arts N' Craft for St. Patrick's Day

Shamrock Necklace

You Will Need:
Green and white construction paper
Hole punch
Shoelaces, ribbon, or yarn for stringing

  1. Cut several sizes of shamrocks from green and white construction paper.
  2. Punch a hole in the top of each shamrock.
  3. Give the child a shoelace (or length of ribbon, or yarn with masking tape wrapped on each end) and show him how to string the shamrocks to make a Saint Patrick's Day necklace.

This craft project can be found in:

Do you have any simple St. Patrick's Day arts 'n crafts projects you like would like to share with other nannies or au pairs?

Monday, March 15, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Scavenger Hunt for Nannies and Au Pairs

Pot of Gold Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are so much fun. Have the children help you make a treasure chest. Then the nanny or au pair can make the clues to lead the children to their pot of gold.

You Will Need:
Unfinished wooden or cardboard treasure chest (You can buy a wooden treasure chest or wooden box, or just use a cardboard box)
Green craft paint
White glue
Disposable cup
Gold glitter
Acrylic gemstones
Glue gun
Candy coins wrapped in gold foil
Pieces of copy paper
Glitter pen

  1. Cover the work area with newspapers to protect it.
  2. Have the kids paint the treasure chest with green craft paint and allow it to dry.
  3. Make a mixture of 1/3 cup glue and 2 tablespoons water in the disposable cup and mix together. Paint the glue mixture onto the painted chest. Sprinkle the glitter onto the chest and allow it to dry. Here's how to avoid making a mess and wasting glitter: Fold a piece of copy paper in half and then open it up. Set the object on the paper and sprinkle the glitter onto it.
  4. When dry, remove the object from the paper and bump the glitter to the fold in the center. Pour the unused glitter back into the container.
  5. Glue the acrylic gemstones around the chest. Place the candies inside the chest.
  6. Cut three pieces of copy paper in half. Using the glitter pen, write clues to locations inside or outside of the home that the kids can figure out. For example, you could write "Dad's Favorite Sport" and lead them to his golf bag. The next clue will be placed in this golf bag, and so on, until the treasure chest is found. For little kids that cannot read, you can cut out pictures from magazines, or draw pictures, of where their treasure is hidden.

This idea can be found in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Holiday Crafts by Marilee Lebon.

Do you have any St. Patrick's Day games, activities, or traditions you like to do with children?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Weekly Trip to the Library for Nannies and Au Pairs

"They say it's like true love, good help. You only get one in a lifetime." -- Kathryn Stockett

Talk about a page-turner! I have never had more trouble putting down a book than the novel The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Anyone who gravitates towards the passionate issues of civil rights will love this book about black domestic servants working in Jackson, Mississippi households in 1962. Domestic employees may love the novel even more for the affectionate intimacy shared by the white children and their black servants in the South during the civil rights era. But, the book has me wondering if things really have improved as much as we would hope since 1962 in the deep South.

The story is written from the perspective of three different women. Aibileen and Minny are black servants that share the narration with Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, the white college graduate hoping to become a writer. Skeeter unintentionally becomes a civil rights activist in her attempt to become a writer. With the assistance of the black "help" she is able to write the book about working as a black domestic in the white households of Mississippi.

Although the media televises the tragic murders of black men Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr. in the novel, the white community of Jackson, Mississippi seem unaware of the civil rights activism occurring in the rest of the country. By the end of the book Skeeter decides to move to New York, being shunned from the white community in her hometown.

Have things really changed since 1962 in the deep South? Certainly it is politically incorrect and illegal to not hire a person due to race. Obviously black nannies and housekeepers share the toilets, plates, and tables of their white employers today. Black Americans employ white domestics today. Clearly black history is improving -- Barack Obama has been elected President. But, with the in-home caregiver industry highly unregulated is there really anyway we can be certain that domestic employers aren't choosing white employees to work in their homes instead of African or Caribbean caregivers? Are parents choosing to hire white caregivers over a black nannies because they are racist (even if it is illegal)? Absolutely.

I currently have an Italian American white friend and a Caribbean American black friend looking for nanny jobs. They both have more than six-years experience at their previous jobs in the same town and both have stellar references. They are both using the same nanny placement agency and the same online placement website. The Caribbean caregiver has been out of work one month longer than the white nanny. My black friend has had a total of three interviews while the white nanny candidate went on five interviews the first weekend she was unemployed. The white nanny has been offered jobs, while my black friend cannot get interviews.

Obviously I may be making sweeping generalizations. There could be much more than just race determining who is being interviewed and offered jobs. But, it feels like my theory may really be affecting who is getting interviewed and who is getting offered jobs. Although it's illegal for agencies or parents to accept interviews or hire employees due to race, can anyone really enforce that?

Maybe more shocking is that a parent told me this week that she has been asked by nanny placement agency staff, "Would you be interested in interviewing nannies from the Islands?" The parents was shocked and offended. That is illegal.

On the surface, and certainly for my friends and neighbors, diversity is much more widely accepted today than in the South in the early 1960s. There are civil rights laws and labor laws protecting the rights of every race, religion, disability, and gender today. But in a highly unregulated industry of in-home, domestic employees it's nearly impossible to enforce these most basic rights and laws.

I am excited and cannot wait for the film based on the novel The Help with a script written by Tate Taylor and produced by Chris Columbus (according to Variety). I am glad I read this novel, and I am sure you will be too.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

In the March 2010 Be the Best Nanny Newsletter we discussed both common childhood fears and more serious anxiety disorders. The essential features of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are obsessions and compulsions that are time consuming and cause impairment in daily functioning.

Obsessions are persistent ideas, thoughts, or impulses that are experienced as intrusive and inappropriate and cause marked anxiety or distress. Usually, the child with obsessions tries to neutralize these disturbing thoughts with some other thought or action (a compulsion).

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts (such as hand washing, ordering, checking, praying, counting, repeating words silently), to reduce anxiety, not to provide pleasure.

Obsessions and compulsions are time consuming and may interfere with the child’s functioning at home, school, or in social activities.

Also, because obsessive actions can be distracting, kids may show poor performance on tasks that would require concentration, such as schoolwork. In addition, many kids may avoid objects or situations that provoke obsessions and compulsions.

Have you ever cared for a child with obsessive compulsive disorder? If so, do you have any advice to share with other nannies on how to cope with the disorder?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Children with Social Phobia

How Do Nannies and Au Pairs Help Children with Social Phobia?

In the March 2010 Be the Best Nanny Newsletter we discussed common childhood fears and more serious anxiety disorders that require physician care.

Social phobia is an intense fear of becoming humiliated or embarrassed in social situations. Children who suffer from social phobia might appear to be excessively shy. But, social phobia is different from being shy. People with shyness can be uneasy around others, but they don’t necessarily avoid situations that make them feel uncomfortable.

Common fears of children with social phobia are fears of going to social situations such as parties, fears of talking with authority figures such as teacher or a principal, or fears of speaking to others in public.

Other less common fears may involve fears of using a public restroom, fears of eating out, or talking on the phone, or fears of writing on the blackboard in front of other peers.

Have you cared for a child with social phobia? What is your advice for helping children who suffer from this anxiety?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Selective Mutism

Have you ever worked for a child that won't talk at school? Although this is not classified as a child anxiety disorder, selective mutism is often seen around the time that children enter school for the first time, and can be accompanied by anxiety.

The essential symptom of selective mutism is the failure to speak in some social situations where speaking is expected, despite speaking in other situations.

In the March 2010 Be the Best Nanny Newsletter we discussed selective mutism in children.

If you have cared for a child who wouldn't speak in specific social situations (selective mutism) how did you help the child?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Coping with Panic Attacks in Children

Nannies and Au Pairs: Have Your Charges Suffered from Panic Disorder?

Yesterday we asked if nannies and au pairs have cared for children with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Today we ask if in-home childcare providers have ever cared for children with panic disorder.

The key characteristic of panic disorder is recurring panic attacks.

A panic attack is an episode of intense fear and unease, comprised of both physical symptoms and a number of fearful thoughts.

Physical symptoms of a panic attack include increased heart rate and chest pain, choking sensations, difficulty breathing, sweating and trembling, gastrointestinal distress, body temperature changes, hot or cold flushes, dizziness, and numbness or tingling in the limbs. For example, the child might think they are having a heart attack or have diarrhea.

Cognitive symptoms (thoughts), include fear of dying or losing control of one’s mind or self, feeling as if one is in a dream and events seem unreal.

Have you ever cared for a child who suffered from panic attacks or was diagnosed with panic disorder? If so, how did you help the child?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children

Nannies and Au Pairs: Have You Cared for a Child with Anxiety?

In the March 2010 Be the Best Nanny newsletter we discussed common childhood and more anxiety disorders that might require the care of a physician.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive worrying about a variety of events, occurring more days than not for at least six-months.

Children with this disorder worry excessively about a number of issues, including past conversations or actions, upcoming events, school, family health, their own health, competence in sports or academics, and world events. Typically, children experiencing such excessive worry find it difficult to control the amount of time that they worry, and the worrying interferes in their daily life.

The anxiety and worry are associated with at least three of the following six symptoms:

  • restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
  • being easily fatigued
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irritability
  • muscle tension
  • sleep disturbance

Have any of the children you have cared for suffered from generalized anxiety disorder? If so, how was the child treated?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Children's Books About Coping with Common Childhood Fears

Weekly Trip to the Library for Nannies and Au Pairs

In the March 2010 issue of Be the Best Nanny Newsletter we discussed coping with common childhood fears.

Separation Anxiety:
Do any of your charges suffer from separation anxiety? If so, they are not alone. Separation anxiety is completely normal and actually a developmental milestone. To see tips from other nannies on the topic click here. One of the children's books we recommend reading to children that suffer from separation anxiety is Bye-Bye Time by Elizabeth Verdick.

Being cared for by a nanny or au pair or being dropped off at preschool means saying good-bye to Mom or Dad. For many toddlers, bye-bye is a scary situation. This gentle book helps ease the transition with simple rituals: hugs and kisses, a big wave, a deep breath, and the confidence to seek comfort with the new caregiver or other children. An award-winning author/illustrator team offers a fresh look at the times and transitions all toddlers face daily, giving young children the tools to handle routines with confidence and cooperation. Part of the Toddler Tools series, Bye-Bye Time can be shared before (or during) the desired "time," or whenever toddlers need encouragement with routines.

Being Afraid of the Dark:
Another common childhood fear is being afraid of the dark. Nannies suggest using nightlights and reading children's books to help kids that are frightened of the dark. To see what other caregivers suggest doing when children are afraid of the dark click here. Just one of the children's book we suggest sharing with a child that is scared of the dark in the March 2010 issue of the nanny trade publication is The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson.

Plop, the baby barn owl, needs to overcome his fear of the night, because that's when he and his parents must go hunting. His understanding mother suggests that he ask various other creatures why they like the dark. A boy calls it exciting because he can see fireworks, an old lady finds it kind as she remembers past pleasures, a Boy Scout says it's fun because friends can sing around the campfire and drink cocoa, a girl explains that it is necessary so that Santa can come, an astronomer terms it wondrous because he can see the constellations, and a cat simply points out the beauty of the sleeping town. Now convinced that the dark is just right, Plop becomes a night owl.

Scared of Monsters:
Kids that are afraid of the dark are often afraid of monsters under their beds or in their closets. To see ideas from other nannies about helping kids cope with the fear of monsters click here. There are tons of books on the topic one book we like is I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll.
The monster under Ethan’s bed (whose name is Gabe) has gone fishing — how will Ethan ever get to sleep without his nightly scare? Several other monsters audition for the job, but none are quite right. Noll gives the “monster under the bed” issue a whole new twist, funny with just the right touch of fright. Howard McWilliam’s absolutely gorgeous illustrations complement the story perfectly. This is a great book both for parents who are looking to help their kids cure night-time fears and for kids who like a little scare.

Are your charges afraid of thunder storms? If so, they are not alone. Many children (and many adults) are afraid of storms. Did you know that lightning bolts can be over a mile long? Or that they may come from clouds that are ten miles high? Storms can be scary, but not if you know what causes them. That is why before the next thunderstorm, grab Flash, Crash, Rumble and Roll by Franklyn M. Branley and learn what causes the flash, crash, rumble, and roll of thunderstorms!

We have many other children's book suggestions for common childhood fears in the March 2010 issue of Be the Best Nanny Newsletter. Feel free to share your favorite children's books on the topic. Be sure to stop by next Saturday for another Weekly Trip to the Library.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Finding the Calm During the Storm

Coping with Common Childhood Fears

When you care for a child who is severely afraid of storms, learning to comfort them in the midst of the chaos is important. In the March 2010 issue of Be the Best Nanny Newsletter we discussed coping with common childhood fears.

Some tips we listed to help keep a child happy during a thunderstorm included: distracting the child with plenty of indoor activities, teaching them about weather so it isn't so scary, play CDs with storms sounds so they become desensitized to thunder, and read age-appropriate children's books to the child on the topic.

What tips do you have for helping children that are scared of thunderstorms?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Monsters Under the Bed

How Nannies and Au Pairs Can Help Children that are Afraid of Monsters

Another common childhood fear discussed in the March 2010 issue of Be the Best Nanny Newsletter is monsters under the bed.

At one time or another, every child imagines monsters under the bed or in a closet. Preschoolers have very vivid imaginations and trouble differentiating reality and fantasy.

Just one of the many recommendations we listed in the March issue of the nanny trade publication to help ease fears of a child that is scared of monsters is making sure the child only watches age-appropriate television shows, movies, and video games. Any media with blood, scary characters, or scary noises is usually scary enough for young children to remember while they're lying on their beds alone in the dark.

What advice do you have for helping children who are afraid there are monsters in the dark?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How Nannies and Au Pairs Can Help Children That are Afraid of the Dark

In the March 2010 issue of Be the Best Nanny Monthly Guide we discussed how to help children cope with common childhood fears and how to determine when a child may need professional help for anxiety disorders.

Being afraid of the dark is a very common childhood fear. We listed ten suggestions to help children cope with their fear of the dark. One ideas is to use a night light or dimmer switch on the light at bedtime. We also listed some children's books to read to children about how to cope with being afraid of the dark.

What tips do you have to share with in-home childcare providers about caring for children that are afraid of the dark?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Separation Anxiety for Nannies

Even if you have been caring for a child since birth, suddenly, at some point after six-months and until they are three- or even four-years old, the child may become extremely upset when their parents leave for work. This common childhood stress is called separation anxiety.

In the March 2010 issue of Be the Best Nanny Newsletter we discuss common childhood fears.

Eighty-nine percent of the in-home childcare providers that took our monthly poll answered that children they have cared for have experienced separation anxiety.

How have you helped children cope with separation anxiety?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Be the Best Nanny Newsletter March To-Do List for Nannies and Au Pairs

March is a month of changes --- winter goes out, spring comes in. Indeed, March is a month in which you should pay attention to "ins" and "outs."

Get out of debt. Credit card minimums and rates are increasing are increasing. Get out from under the highest interest cards. Put more payments in and get out of the debt cycle.

Pay yourself. Take some money out of your paycheck and put it in the bank.

Eat healthy. Summer's coming and if you want to lose ten pounds now is the time to eat well. How much goes in your mouth determines whether you pull your pants in or let them out.

Get outside: As the weather improves get outside and exercise.

Get out of the false urgency syndrome. Enjoy a placid, in-control attitude. Every email, IM, twitter, phone call does not require an immediate response or a frenzied reply. Be in charge of your time and energy.

File your taxes. What? You are not being paid on the books? Then get out of the job and in the system. You are cheating yourself and everyone else. Get out of the shadowy world of the underground economy and into the sunshine of ethical and legal employment.