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  • Writer's pictureLena Agree JD, PsyD

How to Prevent Your Child from Feeling Alone in your Nanny's Presence: “Joint Attention”

Updated: Apr 17

AKA: How Your Nanny Should Support Your Child’s Social & Emotional Development; Part 3/4

There are 4 behaviors your nanny should practice to support your child's social-emotional development no matter your child’s age. These are:

o Contingent responding

o Warmth/positive affect/positive regard

o Joint attention

o Responsive routines and limits

We discussed contingent responding and warmth in the first two parts of this series. Let’s take a look at joint attention, so you know what to look for in a nanny/au pair (and can also apply it yourself).

Joint attention is the experience of focusing on something (an object, event, idea etc.) with another person, while being aware of the other person’s simultaneous focus. It's a meaningful interpersonal and emotional experience for children and adults alike. We seek joint attention all the time: whenever we endeavor to share something with someone. It's a powerful antidote to feeling alone.

Our need for joint attention is the reason why it feels bad when you're watching a movie or TV show with someone and that person is looking at their phone. There's an aloneness to it that's painful and difficult to describe.

A good nanny engages in joint attention with your child frequently and for varying durations. For example, exploring something that capture's your child's interest, like the plastic container drawer in the kitchen, or a toy; reading a book; or baking cookies together. The key is to show interest in what your child is focused on (not what your nanny wants to focus on), and to follow your child’s lead the entire time.

Engaging in joint attention is vital for your child's social-emotional, as well as cognitive and language development. Joining your child, at any age, in an activity of your child's choosing and sharing your child's interest, without taking control, communicates “I recognize you as a unique person, and you are interesting and important to me.”

Please read Part 4- Responsive Routines for the fourth way your nanny should support your child’s social-emotional development.

Based on research by:

Atkins-Burnett, Sally, Shannon Monahan, Louisa Tarullo, Yange Xue, Elizabeth Cavadel, Lizabeth Malone, and Lauren Akers (2015). Measuring the Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions for Infants and Toddlers (Q-CCIIT). OPRE Report 2015-13. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Halle, T., Anderson, R., Blasberg, A., Chrisler, A., & Simkin, S. (2011). Quality of caregiver- child interactions for infants and toddlers (QCCIIT): A Review of the Literature, OPRE 2011- 25. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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