The UK’s astonishing run of warm weather has brought happiness to many, but for parents it’s a tricky time. Keeping children happy whilst protecting them from the sun isn’t easy. Any parent or nanny who’s had to try and calm down an overheated toddler who’s unable to get to sleep because of the heat and light on the other side of the bedroom curtains knows that it often feels like Mission Impossible.
One of the most challenging aspects of the summer was raised by one of our clients this week. Her two children just want to go and play at the neighbour’s house because they have a swimming pool. Is this acceptable, our client wants to know, and if so, what’s the etiquette?
There’s no doubt that neighbour relations are complex – an article in the Telegraph shows that the British, in particular, have a clear commitment to NOT getting too close to the family next door. But children don’t pay attention to any of the complicated social equations such as ‘only talking over the fence for four minutes’. They have their own social imperatives which are often simple – who they like, who has the best snacks and whose mum or nanny is welcoming and easygoing. So how do our nannies handle these situations?
1 – Remember what goes around comes around
So says Louise, one of our most experienced nannies, who specialises in multiples and large families. She points out that what is popular in one season may fade from popularity in another. In the heat, one family’s pool may be irresistible but once the weather breaks, it might be your own den/garden/dog/playstation that tops the kiddie charts.
2 – Talk parent to parent without the kids around
Naomi, a bilingual nanny, points out that this could be partly cultural. The British are notoriously reticent, so the best way to find out whether your little darlings are actually still welcome next door is to use that ‘four minute chat over the fence’ to ask direct questions like ‘how often would you really want our children using your pool?’ and ‘is there something we can do to repay your hospitality?’ That way you stand a chance of finding out what the real deal is and may even find you could be building your relationship with your neighbours into the bargain.
3 – Accept gracefully
Johanna, who’s been Nannying for nearly three decades, remembers many occasions when a parent would come to her and ask ‘am I doing okay because my child seems to like X or Y better than me?’ This is a common feeling for parents and having a nanny who can take the objective view of your own parenting can be very reassuring. If your children are being hosted happily by another family, be glad that you’ve raised such popular kids rather than thinking you’re not good enough!
4 – Repay and replay
Sometimes it’s just the case that your kids want to access something you don’t have at home. You can always take your neighbour’s children out to the park once every few weeks to give the other adults a break. Make it fun and maybe you’ll gain new friends too!