For many families, helpers are invaluable. Children may become especially attached if their helper has taken an active role in helping to care for them making the news that their helper is leaving, heartbreaking. How do you break it to them when it’s time for your helper to move on? Here are some tips to share the news sensitively.
Your child is a big boy now that he’s four years old, and you’ve decided that you no longer need your domestic helper – you’re confident that your family can manage without her. Yet you know your preschooler is very attached to her because she has looked after him since he was born, and so you’re worried about breaking the news to him. You need to handle the situation carefully and sensitively because he may have temporary difficulties adjusting to the loss of this loving adult from his daily life. He needs you to help him cope with the change.
The best strategy is honesty. Although you may be anxious about his reaction, don’t postpone telling him or pretend that she’s just gone on holiday. That would simply delay the inevitable and will mislead him. Instead, tell him in advance of the helper’s departure. That will give him time to adjust to the idea that she’s leaving and allows them both with time to say goodbye properly.
You should probably break the news to him no later than one or two weeks before she is due to leave. If you tell him much earlier than that, he may become unsettled by the wait; and if you tell him too late, he might not have enough time to adapt.
Why must she go?
Reassure Junior that he’ll still be safe and loved without her because you’ve made alternative arrangements to ensure he’ll be well looked after – for example, he will attend preschool every day, or his grandparents will care for him at the beginning and end of each day.
Talk about this change in his care arrangement positively. Make absolutely sure he understands that she’s not leaving because he has done something wrong that annoyed her, or that she doesn’t like him any more, because he may jump to the wrong conclusion that it’s all his fault.
It would probably lessen the potential shock if you and your helper explained this to him together.
Your kid will want to know why she’s leaving, so give a positive explanation. Rather than telling him he’s a big boy now and no longer needs a carer (because he will tell you immediately that he still does!), provide a good reason – for example, she is moving to a new job, or a new house.
Of course, he might accept the news without any signs of distress, but if he does become upset and tearful, gives him lots of cuddles and again reassure him that he’ll be fine when she leaves.
Goodbye is not forever
Arrange a farewell party for your helper and involve him in the preparations. He can help make the cake, buy a card and wrap her present. That will make him feel better.
On D-day, keep her departure short and swift. An overly long and dramatic goodbye may be emotionally draining. You and your helper should try to smile at that point, despite any inner feelings of sadness.
A quick hug and kiss, then it’s time for her to go. The separation will be easier for him to accept if he knows that he can keep in touch with his former carer by phone or Skype. With your support and advance planning, he’ll soon adapt to unwelcome change in his young life.
By Dr Richard C. Woolfson, Yound Parents, October 2015