4 ways to interact and engage with older children and pre-teens
Lucy Boulton, former VIP nanny and now Childcare Specialist at The Lady, tells us about her experience caring for older children and pre-adolescents (children aged 10 - 13 years) and shares her top tips on how nannies can continue to interact and engage with their charges as they grow up.
Throughout my career as a nanny, I primarily looked after children aged 6 and under which I absolutely loved and felt very confident around this age range. Yet, during one particular role in which I stayed for 3 years full time and then a further 3 years as their ad hoc help, I found myself feeling like I was a little out of my depth as the children approached 10 and older. They no longer wanted to do crafts or read stories, and on more than one occasion I became frustrated over my lack of skills with this age range and felt almost like I’d failed.
Reflecting on the relationship I’d had with these children when they were little, I decided that not all was lost and turned my frustration into education and started to come up with ways in which I could be on their level and talk with them not at them to nurture their fast paced curiosity for life and encourage more communication for all. This did take time, but was worth it to continue the bond we had built since they were little and now support them as pre-teens whilst maintaining that level of respect at all times.
Here are my top tips for maintaining balance in a role with older children:
1. Interest is key
Take a real interest in something that they LOVE. This could be anything from a sport, to music or fashion. Simply taking a few minutes to mention something about the football you saw on tv, or a new song from an artist you know they love to sing along to will just encourage that connection alongside being subtle with your passing comments. It also allows them the choice to respond or not, but regardless of what they choose, it’s planting a seed that you care about their interests and hobbies rather than constantly asking about school or giving them chores to do.
2. Get them involved
This doesn’t need to be the start of an argument, depending on how you approach the situation. For example, if you know they like to cook ask them to cook some simple things for you such as pasta, pizza or maybe even a salad! Allow them to get creative by seamlessly weaving in ideas, suggestions and safety elements so they feel in charge yet are learning at the same time.
If you spot something broken around the house, mention it to them and ask their opinion on how they think it can be fixed or talk them through how you’ll fix it (if you can!). Who knows, it may even spark some future career ideas in them.
3. Save and show
If you see something such as a funny video or song you think they may like, save it and show it to them later or maybe even email it to them if they have email. Again, it’s a passing conversation starter for you to bring up the fact you saw something you think they’d like and is something you can always fall back on.
4. Be spontaneous
I know we all love to keep children on the healthy food track but the reality is sometimes it’s just so nice to go a little wild and stop off to grab their favourite snack on the way home from school or allow them popcorn without it causing a huge fuss! Children have so many boundaries and pressure put upon them at home and school, that sometimes a little surprise element can really help to lighten the vibes. It doesn’t have to be food related either! You can announce a random movie afternoon on a Wednesday, or take them to play mini golf or something of their choice. This shows a level of understanding and that you aren’t just there to be strict and deal out orders and tasks.
These are all ideas that parents and other carers can implement too and without really thinking about it which is what I love! Just taking the time to figure out a few aspects and you can have just as good of a relationship with older children as you have done with the little ones!
Former VIP nanny Lucy Boulton is The Lady’s in-house childcare specialist and parenting expert www.lady.co.uk
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