When Nannies and Families Celebrate Different Holidays

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 by Michelle LaRowe Conover

The holiday season can be an especially stressful time for both nannies and nanny employers. Unlike in a child care center or family day care setting, where there is usually a limited overlap in caregiver and family holiday celebrations, since the work environment is the family’s private home, the nanny tends to be more closely intertwined in the family’s holiday festivities.

For nannies and families who share different faiths or celebrate different holidays, the holiday season can be a sensitive one. As children notice new decorations go up in their home or sense the holiday excitement, they often ask questions and don’t wait until 6 o’clock or when their parents get home to do so. The nanny is then faced with answering the child’s innocent questions about what a decoration may symbolize or what she is doing for the holidays, which if not handled carefully, may cause confusion to the child or for some parents, irritation that their child received an answer that they preferred they had not.

As nannies and employers navigate this holiday season, consider these 5 tips:

1. Be upfront. If you know that you celebrate the holidays differently or have different beliefs, talk to the parents before the holidays are here. Ask them if you are free to be honest with the children about how you celebrate, should they ask or if they have any preferences or concerns about holiday crafts you are considering doing or books you are considering reading. If the parents have preferences about how holidays should be handled, they should discuss this with the nanny before the holiday season is here.

2. Focus on your similarities rather than your differences. Even for families and nannies who celebrate different holidays, there are some events and activities that can unite rather than divide you. If you celebrate different holidays, focus on doing more neutral celebrations and festivities. Instead of making faith inspired crafts, for example, make winter inspired crafts like snowflakes and snowmen.

3.  Have mutual respect. Successful nanny and employer relationships are based on mutual respect. Respect doesn’t mean you agree on everything, it dictates how you respond to your disagreements. If you are concerned about something holiday related, have a respectful conversation about it.

4. Ask questions. If you aren’t sure about something, ask. If you want to give your charge a Christmas present, but the family celebrates Hanukkah and you aren’t sure how it would go over, ask.

5. Keep things in perspective. The holiday season provides a great opportunity for children to learn about the different ways people celebrate the holidays. If you are a person of faith, remember that your faith is rooted in how you live your life every day, not just on the holiday you celebrate. Instead of viewing celebrating with your employer or nanny as a negative thing, consider how learning about different holidays can enrich your understanding of each other.

The longer the nanny and family have been together, the more comfortable the holiday season will be. Focus on what brings you together, rather than what brings you apart this holiday season. When you do, the stress and anxiety over holiday differences will be minimized

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