Have You Worked for Parents Who are Divorced?

Working with Children in Non-Traditional Families

With New York making marriage equality legal this weekend we started discussing working with non-traditional family structures.

There are estimates that half of all marriages in America currently end in divorce. If the estimates are true, nannies must be prepared for working for children whose parents are divorced.

Divorce can be difficult for everyone in the family including child care providers. But it’s best that nannies stay out of the middle of disputes between the parents. Nannies and parents need to work together for the children.

Nannies must communicate with the parents so there is no confusion about who is in charge and when because rules may change from house to house. Caregivers need to know about all custody and visitation issues.

Here is some advice from Cindy Strasheim of Nebraska Cooperative Extension on providing stability to children during divorce.

Keep normal schedules and routines. Encourage parents to do the same at home. Try not to change any more things than necessary.

Reassure infants and toddlers. Let them know that you are still there. Use lots of hugs and loving words.

Keep children’s favorite toys, blankets, or stuffed animals close at hand. Allow children to bring items from home to the other settings. Find some things that the child can hold for a long time.

Be patient. Allow children to be upset. Let children be babyish for a while. The more advanced behavior should return soon.

Find out what the children know about the divorce. Ask the parents what they have said. Ask what the parents would like you to say.

Ask the parents about their plans for schedules and living situations. Help the child understand what will change and what will not change.

Consistent discipline. Do not change the rules just because of the divorce. Discipline as you always would. The child needs guidelines.

Both parents and nannies should consistently explain to children that they are not responsible for the divorce. You may need to say it many times. Nannies should help create stability and security in the lives of children.

What is your advice for working with parents that are divorced?


  1. 🙂 I actually shared a link on this article the other day with a DC Forum nanny. There are also a couple different attorneys, etc. who have written children of divorce bill of rights. I believe in doing what I can to help them ensure that their rights, feelings, needs, wants etc. are still being met. As a nanny I also want to be treated with dignity too. Not the middle man, not the messenger back and forth, etc.SO rather than say I think related to sensitive issues I will have this information available to them. I have also read co-parenting through divorce articles to glean what applies to my day with the children.Some would think that taking a MYOB approach is the way to go, moving the children forward is my business (job) and the divorce side effects can affect the behaviors of children. From eating, sleeping, exercise, moods, relationships with others etc. No the divorce can not be the excuse to let things slide. But knowing what may be common for children in these situations allows a caregiver to have a better understanding of why a kid may do what they are doing. Sometimes it is beyond the child's control. Sometimes they can't verbalize yet what they are feeling. (thus I believe in teaching about emotions.)I also want to know issues of custody, visitation, etc. so things are done by the books. And I want a documentation file on this with copies for me. Because one time I did have to call 911 on a parent in violation of a restraining order. Not pretty thing to do in front of kids. These jobs are easily doable. You just have to be prepared and ready to roll with things.

  2. Of course, who hasn't:) Yep it was difficult with one family where the dad ended up losing all visitation after yelling me at me the first week of work! What a nightmare.

  3. Great general advice but in my experience divorce can get messy. I worked with a family and they were going thru a divorce and naturally you become the sounding board for the mom. I actually "secretly sided" with the dad but was the mom's support system. I became the second parent. The emotional toll was hard to cope with.

  4. The greatest challenge of working with divorced parents is I was working in two households. Each parent had different rules. I felt like I was in the middle when it came to disputes between divorced parents.

  5. We are currently conducting a survey of people whose parents divorced before they turned 18. The purpose of this short, on-line confidential survey is to find out how we can better serve children who are currently living with their parents' divorce. Please help us out by filling out the survey at http://DivorceMinistry4Kids.com/divorce/. Thanks!

  6. I often hear nannies talking badly about their bosses or one of the parents in a divorce and I think it is very inappropriate for kids to hear that about their parents. As professionals we must help the children in all ways possible so it's in very bad taste to ever complain about the parents in the children's presence.

  7. It's sad that the nannies are the ones that have to offer stability in the child's life when parents are divorcing!!! I think we should try to avoid such famlies at all costs. Just too hard on the nanny!

  8. ?????? Avoid such families… while my jobs were not always easy. I never regret providing a service for the children. They needed someone stable there day to day, whose job it was to focus on their well being. This is what a good nanny does. If the nanny prepares herself for the position, negotiates a decent fair package, takes care of herself, and demonstrates deserving respect, it is a win.

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