How to Break Up With Your Child Care Provider

Looking to cut ties with your nanny or babysitter? As with any breakup, there's a right way to end the relationship.

Illustration about how to break up with your child care provider

Illustration by Danie Drankwalter for Parents

From an occasional babysitter to a full-time nanny, child care providers are often crucial to a family's daily operations. But sometimes the relationship needs to end, whether it's due to life changes, budget constraints, disagreements, or something else.

As with any breakup, there's a right way and a wrong way to cut ties with your nanny or babysitter. "The key here is communication," says full-time nanny Laura Schroeder, who is based in Charleston, South Carolina, and serves as president of the International Nanny Association.

Keep reading for tips on "breaking up" with your nanny or babysitter, plus advice on helping your child deal with the change.

Why Do Parents Cut Ties With Their Child Care Provider?

Parents choose to part ways with their child care provider for many reasons. For example, they might not need the service anymore after their kid starts daycare, preschool, or Kindergarten. Or maybe, because of changes to their jobs and schedules, they now require more hours than their current provider can offer. And then there are unfortunate situations in which parents are simply dissatisfied with the performance of the nanny or babysitter. Here are some common disagreements that might lead to termination:

  • Issues with punctuality/absenteeism
  • Ignorance of house rules
  • No strong bond with the child
  • Not engaging the child in developmentally appropriate play
  • Crossing professional boundaries
  • Failure to meet expectations or perform tasks
  • Disagreements about screen time

Whatever the reason for parting ways, consider whether the relationship is salvageable before calling it quits. "Parents should always communicate any grievances immediately and directly, along with a specific plan of action and a timeline to re-evaluate progress," says Erika Slade, founder of Oklahoma-based E-Nanny Co. "This will allow parents to assess if the feedback was not only heard but internalized, resulting in improved performance. If you find that what you're saying is going in one ear and out the other, then it's time to move on." Make sure to documents these conversations with a paper trail, which might come in handy during termination talks.

Of course, certain actions require an immediate end to the relationship. These include theft, neglect, dishonesty, substance use, or safety concerns. In damaging situations like these, don't worry about giving your nanny or babysitter a second chance before letting them go.

Tips for Ending the Relationship

Your family may not have a human resources department, but that doesn't mean you should hire and fire employees without any regulation. Start by referring to your nanny's employment agreement (if you have one) for details on handling severance and termination. Checking your state's employment laws is also a smart idea.

Full- and part-time child care providers may be heavily dependent on the income you provide, so it's important to give them time to plan their next move before they're left without a job. Slade recommends at least two weeks of notice—or two weeks' pay in lieu of notice, depending on the reason for the breakup.

If you're moving or going through a lifestyle change, your child care provider will probably expect the split. But if the breakup is due to problems with the provider, the process can be trickier. "There's a saying that goes, 'surprised people are angry people'," says Slade. "If parents have communicated the poor performance and created a pathway for improvement to no avail, then it should come as less of a surprise when the position is ending, thus hopefully resulting in less pushback."

Feeling anxious about the confrontation? It might help to write a draft of what you plan to say—though you should have this conversation in person rather than over email or text. "Remember, less is more," says Slade. "This is not a time to air out all of your grievances. Take a cue from Elsa and 'let it go.'"

Another tip is telling your provider at the end of the workweek; they'll have time to process the news without having to return to work the next day. Depending on your relationship with the nanny or babysitter, you might send them off with a letter of reference or a parting gift. You can also offer to help them find new employment.

Finding Another Child Care Provider

Some families want to have back-up child care in place. If you'll be hiring a new provider to replace your old one, use the interview process to ensure you don't end up in a similar situation as before. Don't be shy to ask candidates specific questions regarding concerns like punctuality, screen time, age-appropriate play, discipline, and household responsibilities.

Opening the lines of communication from day one is the best way to promote a healthy working relationship moving forward. "It's really important for parents and providers to communicate regularly—not only about the children, but also the expectations and happiness of the parents and their employees," says Schroeder.

Helping Your Child Move On

Be honest with your child about the changes, making sure that your conversation is developmentally appropriate. "If they are younger, less is more," says Slade. "If your child is older, then you can have a more authentic conversation." Some parents choose to discuss with their child one-on-one, while others prefer having the nanny or babysitter there too.

Consider your child's feelings during what may be a major transitional period in their life. "Children are resilient, but these changes are still tough on them," says Schroeder. "Give your nanny and the children a chance for closure." She suggests letting them have some special experiences together in the last couple of weeks, whether it's baking cookies, watching favorite movies, or hosting a farewell celebration. Kids can also make a gift for their child care provider.

Some children might blame themselves for the termination, especially if they had a close relationship with their nanny or babysitter, so emphasize that it isn't their fault. Also, realize that your child might want to continue contact with their provider in the coming weeks or months. Brainstorm the best way to make this happen on both sides, if you'd like. In the meantime, try to stick with your child's daily routine as best as possible as they adjust to a new way of life.

Explore More

As the cost of raising a child in 2023 continues to skyrocket, caregivers are leaning on their communities more than ever. Read more of Parents' deep dive into what child care really looks like for American families—plus tips to create your own child care village.

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