“Less than 5 per cent of nannies in the UAE have any formal training in childcare, yet they spend upwards of 90 hours a week with the children in their care,” says Padmini Gupta, co-founder and chief executive of Rise. Think about that for a minute.
In the UAE, many of us are fortunate enough to be able to employ help around the home. Lest we forget, this is a privilege. In the case of child-minders, it is also an enormous responsibility that we routinely place in someone else’s hands. If an individual is spending 90 hours a week in the company of your child, they have enormous potential to impact their early development. So, ask yourself, is your current nanny able to support your child’s learning, teach them the manners and values that you are so keen to instill, help them expand their vocabulary, and so on and so forth? “Spending time with children requires knowledge – smart mums have smart kids. We see that kids need more proactive engagement with their nannies,” says Gupta.
Rise, an app launched in 2016 to offer educational courses and financial services to the UAE’s migrant population, unveiled a series of Nanny Bootcamps this summer. On offer until the end of October, the bootcamps consist of four online and two in-person courses, developed by local and global experts, and tailor-made for nannies in this region. For example, the course structure took into account that many nannies in this part of the world have typically not had any formal training in childcare, and are not native English speakers. “We had to ensure that all our courses were appropriately paced, with lots of visuals and simple English. We also included assessments to ensure that the nanny had grasped key concepts,” Gupta explains. “For many nannies, this is first-time training, which means that we had to start from the basics but also have more practical, applicable components and less theory.”
Rise identified key areas that needed improvement and developed courses around them. Among these are safety training and paediatric first aid. “Having first-aid training is a qualification every nanny should have, but sadly this is not the case,” says Gupta. “As more and more employers are seeing nannies with this qualification, they are now asking for it as a job requirement upon hiring.”
Healthy eating and nutrition is another focus area. With nannies often responsible for cooking meals, handing out snacks and putting together lunchboxes, it is important that they have some knowledge of the fundamentals of nutrition, says Gupta. “With childhood obesity on the rise, it’s important that nannies are aware of the impact of food on a child. From understanding what a balanced meal looks like, how many vegetables and fruit to incorporate into a child’s diet, and how to ensure that children are growing and thriving, nannies need to understand nutrition,” says Gupta.
The courses also hone in on areas such as child development and building a nurturing environment, she explains. “Nannies need to know how to play with children, how to greet them after school, how to interact and engage with them to ensure that they feel loved and cared for.”
And if there is one takeaway form these courses, what does Gupta hope it will be? “We have an entire course called Professionalism in Nanny Care, developed by Nanny Stella Reid of Nanny 911 and Michelle LaRowe, former director of the International Nanny Association. One of the biggest takeaways from the course is how important it is to have open communication – both good and bad, and from nanny and employer."
Gupta acknowledges that the relationship between parent and nanny is a tricky one and can be difficult to navigate. But it is so important to get it right, for both your peace of mind and the happiness of your children and your nanny. “The relationship with a nanny is a difficult one. We feel like our nanny is part of our family yet there is also an employer/employee relationship that has to be maintained. It can be tricky to balance, but setting clear expectations from the onset can ensure no miscommunication. Employers have to take the time to properly orient their nannies so they understand their own communication style, parenting style and family code.
“Often, nannies experience a lack of support from their employers. As a result, many nannies are hesitant to ask for training. But learning offers a benefit to all – the nanny, the child and the family. As mothers, we read tens of books on raising happy children, and we’ve got to share that knowledge with our nannies because they’re part of the process. It takes a village, and in Dubai you’ve got to build that support network.”