One of the hardest parts of any nanny-family relationship? When it’s time to say goodbye and go your separate ways. There are countless reasons why you may be leaving—perhaps you’re pursuing a new position, changing your career, relocating, etc.—but regardless of why it’s coming to an end, chances are there are some nervous feelings surrounding the thing that comes next: giving your employer notice and hoping things end on good terms. 

But how do you really end a relationship on good terms? How do you step away and hope that the family remembers all the good times you shared, not only the fact that you’re leaving? This can be a tricky balance to strike, especially  because our brains are somehow wired to remember only the most extreme and final moments of our experiences. 

One of the world’s most influential psychologists, Daniel Kahneman, explained that this phenomenon is due to a psychological principle called peak-end rule, coupled with duration neglect. Peak-end rule explains that the overall experience is rated based on its peak moments and how the experience ended, so the length has little effect on the way we remember moments, thus leading to duration neglect. 

Think of it like this: Kahneman and his colleagues conducted a study where the participants were asked to put their hands in cold water two separate times. The first time it was a short episode, 60 seconds in 14ºC ice water, the second time was a longer episode, 60 seconds in 14ºC ice water followed by 30 sec of 15ºC ice water.  When the participants were asked which one they would want to repeat for a third trial the majority chose the longer episode that had the more pleasant end. This illustrates the fact that people are more prone to evaluate an event by the way it ends rather than by the totality of the experience. What should your take away be? How you end your job will make a significant impact on how your employer feels about their experience working with you as a whole. 

So how can you make all this science and data work for, rather than against, you? Worry not; there are ways to turn things around! Here are some tips on how you can leave your job AND end it on good terms with your nanny family. 

1. Lead the conversation with LOTS of kindness and grace.

Although it’s not uncommon for work relationships to come to an end, remember that the working relationship you have with your nanny family is more personal than most. For them, the news of you leaving might come as a surprise, so leading with an extra dose of kindness and grace is a great first step. 

This is a job that you put your heart and soul into, so deciding to move on is sure to come with its fair share of emotions. But as tough as it is for you, understand that the family, most importantly the kids, also need to process it for themselves. Transitions and change can be challenging for families, but remaining  kind and gracious when giving your notice only shows your genuine concern for them and will make the news easier to process when the emotions subside.

2. Be cognizant of the timing of both the conversation and your departure.

Timing is important. Having the conversation at the right time can help soften the impact. Set up a time to chat free from distractions so that all parties can focus and be present. If possible, avoid any important dates or times when you know the family is busy or distracted with upcoming obligations. We know telling them is a difficult step, but good timing will help you ease into the conversation. When telling them your reason, honesty is the best policy! 

3. Face-to-face is the best option.

The best, though possibly most challenging, way to share this decision? Sit with the family and have the conversation. If at all possible, talk to them in person. Not only is this the most respectful way to engage in a conversation of this nature, but this will also be your chance to thank them for any and everything over the course of your time spent with their family. You may be leaving, but it is still important to take care of the relationship you’ve spent so much time and care cultivating. And on a  more practical note, the importance of references in this industry is just too significant to burn a bridge you’ve spent so long building. Having a face-to-face heartfelt conversation that shows that you’re taking the family’s well-being into consideration is the best way to go. 

4. Give as much notice as possible.

Refer back to your work agreement. If it states that you need to give two week’s notice before you leave, make sure you’re factoring this into your plans. If it is at will within your control, make sure that you honor the work agreement. But what would be even better yet?  Give them more time! This not only shows how professional you are, but it also shows that you truly care for your nanny family and are willing to go above and beyond, even as you go your separate ways.

When planning your departure, do your best to consider your nanny family’s current situation. If you’re able to give them ample notice and schedule a departure date that allows them to make any necessary arrangements, great! If you’re able to help them find and train a new caretaker, fantastic! If your schedule allows you to step in for a date night down the line, wonderful! Anything you can do to make the transition easier for the family, especially the kids, is sure to be appreciated. 

5. Work hard and be professional up until the very last moment.

Remember the peak-end rule? This is your time to make a final impression! You might be leaving, but it’s important that you continue doing your job the best way you know how so your last days with the family are remembered fondly. 

“When people assess an experience, they tend to forget or ignore its length…What’s indisputable is that when we assess our experiences, we don’t average our minute-by-minute sensations.” says Chip and Dan Heath, authors of The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. In other words, your final moments with them are often what matter most! 

Final Thoughts

We know you love your job and give your all when it comes to taking care of your nanny kids. But as with all things, the time to part ways will come. Though it can really feel overwhelming, there are ways to make your exit as graceful as possible by remembering these tips. Knowing how important your final impression is allows you to prepare for the better. 

Remember: positive endings will get you far! Ending on good terms is not only a sure-fire way to keep your relationship intact, but it also shows that you’re nothing but professional through to the very end.