Nanny with a boy.
Ask the right questions for the best results.

This companion piece to 5 Interview Questions From A Mom Seeking a Special Needs Nanny looks at the conversation from the nanny's point of view. It was written by Helen Adeosun, former nanny, educator, founder and CEO of SitterCycle. SitterCycle provides professional development for nannies, enhancing their lives and the lives of the families they care for through education.


As a nanny, teacher, and caregiver, I have had the pleasure of knowing over 200+ children and their families either through my classroom or my experiences working with them directly in their home. One of my greatest challenges in each of these roles is also the most rewarding opportunity: getting to know as much as possible about each and every child that I encounter in a very, very short amount of time. Whether it was in my classroom or in the role of the Friday night babysitter, I had to navigate successful (and not so successful) ways of bonding and connecting with children in genuine ways often to get them to learn, to finish their dinner, or to get them to bed on time.

When initially interviewing with parents, I found that many of the skills that I learned to create great relationships with children always apply. Here are some of the questions your prospective caregivers should ask you to begin establishing meaningful relationships and trust with both you and your children:

Questions a caregiver will ask parents:

  1. What are your child's favorite things that comfort her when you're not here?
    This question brings up the positive and the negative triggers that will connect children to their caregivers. Favorite things may include everything from a favorite toy that is calming to your child, or a blanket that she will not sleep without.
  2. Can you show me how to use this EpiPenĀ® (or any other medication)?
    I find it best that caregivers are always transparent about their level of comfort with medicine, dosing, and special care skills that they have or don't have. I learned how to use an EpiPenĀ® in my first aid classes. However, I always say "I learned this in my Red Cross Class, but it never hurts to go over this again." This gives me an opportunity to put the parent at ease and let them know that I will be transparent.
  3. What are the books that you like to read or what are the nuances of your routine?
    Very often parents have habits and routines they perform that they may not see as special. Rather than just tell me, I have parents go room by room and show me as much as they can. If children come along it usually prompts the, "Oh yeah...and". This also depends on your caregiver asking questions and learning as much as she can about how to make your children's routine consistent after you leave.
  4. What are the top three things that the children may try to push on?
    Children may try to push their boundaries with the new caregiver. That is a natural part of working with children of all ages. Be honest and make sure your caregiver knows where and how to set boundaries with your children.
  5. What's your discipline technique?
    Discipline is a contentious issue. You and the caregiver should get on the same page. The caregiver may have her own opinions on discipline, including her own limitations. Find out if there is a middle ground on discipline and work together with your caregiver to find ways of diffusing triggers that may cause discipline problems before they become an issue.

As a caregiver, I always advocate actively including the children in planning how they will be cared for. So often we neglect, or think too little about, the agency children have. If your caregiver begins by talking to your children and asking them questions, it is a good sign that she loves what she does, and will respect your children no matter their age or ability (yes, even newborns!).

  1. What are your' favorite activities or toys?
    Children frequently don't get asked about their interests. Getting this response off the bat will help caregivers find ways to engage your child creatively. It will help with everything from easing into bedtime to getting them to do their homework.
  2. Show me something that is part of your routine. Where do I find a certain food or medicine?
    Caregivers will get this from you beforehand, but getting it from your children will give them a sense that they're respected. It also gives them a chance to practice the routine with their caregivers, which should hopefully make the transition much easier. Sometimes, children are also the best experts in their own care, and in my experience will provide honest answers to things they may not find so pleasant, such as medicine taking.
  3. What did you do today?
    Kids want to know that you're interested in their day, and you will genuinely listen. This is also a great short hand way to learn about the activities and people that they feel most connected to and is a great way to connect.
  4. What do you want to be when you grow up?
    A great caregiver will be invested in ensuring that even if for a short time, she can help a child grow towards their long term goals, or at least can get them to start thinking about the future. This builds even stronger connections between the caregivers and children.

These are the top questions any caregiver should be asking you and your children. Your responses will help caregivers, parents, and children work as a team to ensure the children receive the best care possible.