Baby Care

Here’s why you need a nanny trial—plus 7 tips to make the most of it

Some families think they’ve found the right nanny, but end up having to let them go the very same week after a problem becomes evident, putting them right back to square one.

One way to get around this a nanny trial. This is an opportunity for both families and nannies to interview and evaluate each other and see if the arrangement is going to work. Trials can give families an impression of how their new nanny might blend in, interact with the kids and meet the family’s needs. In turn, the nanny gets a chance to familiarize herself with the household, routines, schedules, and neighbourhood. This smooths the transition if the nanny turns out to be a good fit.

Indeed, setting up trial periods is common when searching for a nanny: up to 95% of families will opt to set up a trial period.

But how should families and nannies structure a trial that works for all parties? Here are seven key tips.

1. Set up a one-week trial period

After initial interviews, it’s advisable to set up a one-week trial period with candidates. This is usually enough time for both parties to make a decision. Some families may decide to run trials with multiple nannies, while others might set up a trial with just one nanny as a final step in the process.

If a full one-week trial can’t be worked into schedules, a short trial, or working interview, might work instead. This is when a nanny interacts with the child or children in the home and even potentially takes them on activities, while the parent(s) observes. Even a couple days or just a few hours can help you gain a valuable impression of personal chemistry. Many parents find it helpful to have their new nanny get to know the kids and their routine somewhat before fully committing.

2. Align on expectations and write them down

Families should think through what they expect from the nanny—and, conversely, nannies should be upfront about what they’re willing to do. Together, you should have an open conversation.

A work agreement template can help families identify the specifics, whether it’s light housekeeping, driving the children to school and team practices, or speaking a second language with them. If all goes well, this work agreement could be used as part of a contract for full-time work moving forward. Regardless, it’s important to be clear on what’s required both during the trial as well as later on during full-time employment.

To prevent issues down the road, it’s important to cover things like payment, out-of-town trips and time off.

You can even create a handbook that covers everything from daily schedules and safety procedures to social media preferences related to the kids, and talk about it with the nanny before the trial begins.

3. Remember that trials are paid

Families should generally pay a fair wage that matches what the nanny will actually make.

4. Set yourself up for success

A trial run should closely mirror actual home life, whether that’s picking a child up from school or playing at home for the day. It’s a good idea to provide your nanny candidate with the information and instructions they need during the working interview, such as phone numbers, addresses, dietary restrictions or what parks to visit. After all, they’re a total newcomer to your household.

5. Speak up

It’s important to open the lines of communication with nannies during trial periods to get a sense of their approach with the children and receptivity to areas of responsibility.

Try to draw out information with specific questions around the things that are most important to you. For example: Was the light housekeeping easy to handle or too much? How was trying to get the baby down for her nap? How did our toddler react when you corrected his behaviour?

This helps give a better sense of how things are going—and how the nanny might handle daily job demands.

Set aside 10 to 20 minutes to talk when the children are not there or are otherwise preoccupied. This is your first opportunity to create a dynamic of open communication and set the tone for your partnership.

6. Make yourself available at home

If parents can make it work, it’s good to be home for a trial run with a new nanny, at least in the very beginning, until you feel comfortable. After that, you can try leaving for a bit, and then evaluate how things went when you get back. How are the kids? How’s the atmosphere? Trust your intuition.

It’s a good idea to give children get a chance to connect one-on-one with a prospective caregiver. Even if you’re not leaving the house, simply find something else to do in the meantime in order to give them some space to get a feel for one another.

7. Be honest about your feelings

If a family or a nanny doesn’t feel like it’s a good fit, it’s not a problem—that’s the point of working interviews, after all. If things don’t feel right, just be honest, direct and kind when you communicate this.

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