My Child Loves My Nanny More Than Me
You asked and you shall now receive. It’s only fair for us to share all of this stored up knowledge about a toddlers and what happens when they start toddling (and talking)! We now will answer, in a very public forum, all of those burning questions about children in their second year. Each Wednesday, we will tackle a commonly-asked-question from the point of view of a parent with a toddler. Chiming in to give her feedback will be an expert who has been there and done that. Earmark, share and add your own input to today’s question; it’s good karma.
My toddler loves my nanny more than I. What can I do; I’m jealous!
It is a double-edged challenge when we feel that children prefer their nannies over their parents because we want our toddlers to feel loved and safe when we are away from them and that can lead us to feel less important in their lives when they make an attachment to an important caregiver. Feelings can feel like the truth but in reality they are emotions and emotions are not based on objective truths but on our subjective reactions to any given situation. Children attach to their primary parents and through that understanding of intimacy and getting their needs met they can then attach to others.
Think of all of what we know about adopted children. They can be raised in loving homes and still long to know their biological parent. So try to hold onto the knowledge that your child prefers you.
Children can and do love their caregivers and miss them. Sometimes it may feel safer for your toddler to show that to the nanny then you because it is actually less charged for them. If you are gone they need to cope with the separation from you so they develop different emotional strategies. Some children cling to their parent, some children turn away when you have to go, some children have a hard time going back to a parent because they know they will have to separate again if it is a part of their routine.
Try to contain your own reactions as much as possible if your toddler clings to the nanny. Let her know that you know how much she loves her caregiver and that the missing feeling is hard.
Try not to ask questions like “don’t you want to go back to mommy now.”
If your child runs after the nanny or stands at the door crying try holding her and remind her that you love her and it will feel better soon. If she won’t let you comfort her at first stay close to her and every few minutes ask if she is ready to be held.
At play times when you are alone try playing out the scenario with a few cars or animals. Try saying “baby car does not like goodbyes. Baby car does not like the missing feeling. First she misses her mommy car and then she misses her tow truck. She is having a hard time today.” See how your toddler engages in the story. If you allow her to lead in the play she will be able to teach you what she is struggling with through her play decision making.
Also help your nanny let go gracefully. Sometimes caregivers do not realize they are feeding some of the anxiety at transition time.
Most important whether you believe it or not, react to your child as if you knew she wanted you more, which is in fact what is her truth as well. Our emotions are complicated and what they represent is not always obvious.
About our expert-
Marsha Greenberg is a therapist in New York City. She is the author of the newly released book, Raising Your Toddler, by Globe Pequot Press. She has masters degrees in Child and Family Development and Social Work from the University of Michigan. As the Director of the Health Systems Child Care Program for over 14 years, she was responsible for over 250 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 6 years of age. Marsha teaches in the Early Childhood Special Education department at NYU and has a private psychotherapy practice in NYC. Marsha is the mother of three grown sons and has three grandsons (aged 4 and 18 months and 4 months) with a new grandchild on the way.