Successful stories are driven by authentic and interesting characters, so it’s important to craft them carefully. But characters don’t usually exist in a vacuum; throughout the course of your story, they’ll live, work, play, and fight with other cast members. Some of those relationships are positive and supportive, pushing the protagonist to positive growth and helping them achieve their goals. Other relationships do exactly the opposite—derailing your character’s confidence and self-worth—or they cause friction and conflict that leads to fallout and disruption. Many relationships hover somewhere in the middle. A balanced story will require a mix of these dynamics.
The purpose of this thesaurus is to encourage you to explore the kinds of relationships that might be good for your story and figure out what each might look like. Think about what a character needs (good and bad), and build a network of connections for him or her that will challenge them, showcase their innermost qualities, and bind readers to their relationship trials and triumphs.
Nanny and Child
A nanny is hired by a family to be the caregiver of a child. Whether they live in or out of the family home, a nanny provides supervision when the child’s parents are working, traveling, or otherwise engaged. Responsibilities may include planning and carrying out stimulating activities for the child, feeding them, ensuring their health and safety, bringing them to extracurricular activities and appointments, and more. Under the right conditions, the child and nanny may bond with one another like a parent and a child. But conflicting desires may create a more challenging relationship, impeding trust and creating difficulties between the two. With the child’s parents being a critical component of the nanny/child relationship, this relationship is fertile ground for obstacles.
Below are a wide range of dynamics that may accompany this relationship. Use the ideas that suit your story and work best for your characters to bring about and/or resolve the necessary conflict.
A full-time nanny who lives in the home and has constant access to the child
An only child who has the nanny’s full attention
A nanny who cares for more than one child in the home
A nanny who lives outside of the home but carries out their working duties inside the home
A child with multiple nannies fulfilling the caregiving role
A child who rejects their nanny as an authority figure
A child who is strongly bonded to their nanny, as though they are a parental figure
Challenges That Could Threaten The Status Quo
A child wanting their parents’ care more than the nanny’s care
The nanny struggling personally with infertility
A live-in nanny having to move out of the child’s home
The nanny and the parents developing different opinions about how the child should be raised
A sibling developing a condition that requires more of the nanny’s time and attention
The child going through a rebellious stage and becoming disrespectful (not listening, following directions, etc.)
The child telling their parents a lie about the nanny
A stressful situation for the nanny (a victimization, the death of a loved one, etc.) that diminishes her patience and tolerance for misbehavior
The child’s parents becoming jealous of the nanny
The nanny developing a relationship with one of the child’s parents
A financial change for the family that impacts the nanny’s hours or income
The nanny having to reduce her hours, resulting in the family bringing in a second caregiver
The parents overhearing the nanny gossiping about them or the child
The child not bonding with the nanny
The child confiding about something disturbing that the nanny feels she must relay to the parents
The nanny being given more responsibility than was originally agreed upon
The child developing a serious illness or behavioral issue that the nanny can’t handle
A former employer of the nanny coming forward with unsettling information
The child becoming injured on the nanny’s watch
The nanny suspecting or witnessing child abuse by a family member
The child being exposed to something inappropriate by the nanny (swear words, inappropriate media content, etc.)
The nanny developing extreme religious or cultural ideas
Wounds That Could Factor into The Relationship
A child dying on one’s watch, A parent’s divorce, A parent’s abandonment or rejection, Being bullied, Being disowned or shunned, Being raised by neglectful parents, Being raised by parents who loved conditionally, Discovering a sibling’s abuse, Failing to do the right thing, Giving a child up for adoption, Growing up in the public eye, Growing up in the shadow of a successful sibling, Having parents who favored one child over another, Infertility, Living in an emotionally repressed household, Living with an abusive caregiver, Not being a priority growing up, The death of one’s child
Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
The child wanting freedom while the nanny craves control
The child wanting the nanny all too themselves, but the nanny having other responsibilities
The nanny wanting to follow the parents’ wishes while the child does not
Either party wanting to share a secret that the other wants to remain hidden
The nanny wanting the child to be more independent
Clashing Personality Trait Combinations
Independent and Needy, Controlling and Rebellious, Dishonest and Honorable, Confrontational and Timid, Judgmental and Oversensitive, Responsible and Uncooperative, Nurturing and Withdrawn, Ambitious and Lazy
Negative Outcomes of Friction
The nanny quitting her job or being fired
Arguments and fights between the child and the nanny
The child or nanny feeling jealousy or inadequate
The nanny feeling overwhelmed by the demands of the job
The child resenting the nanny’s role in their life
The nanny receiving a bad reference for a future employer
The child or the nanny developing an unfavorable reputation
An unhealthy dynamic forming between the child and the nanny (one where the child is running the roost, for instance)
A rebellious child trying to get the nanny fired
Fictional Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
The nanny and child teaming up to address an unsafe or unlawful situation in the home
The child receiving support from the nanny to achieve an important goal
The nanny standing up to someone on behalf of the child
The nanny helping to solve a problem for the child without breaking their confidence
The child unknowingly helping the nanny through infertility or a miscarriage by allowing them to have a caregiving role
The nanny and child surviving a difficult experience (an accident, natural disaster, crime, etc.)
Planning a surprise together for another family member
Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Change
A jaded child learning to that not all authority figures are untrustworthy
The nanny connecting with a difficult child and overcoming feelings of incompetence or self-doubt
A child learning that he or she is valuable and has great potential
The child and nanny learning to compromise
Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
Betrayal, Borders, Coming of age, Crossroads, Deception, Depression, Family, Freedom, Friendship, Inflexibility, Innocence, Love, Rebellion, Refuge, Wealth
Other Relationship Thesaurus entries can be found here.
Need More Descriptive Help?
While this thesaurus is still being developed, the rest of our descriptive collection (15 unique thesauri and growing) is accessible through the One Stop for Writers THESAURUS database.
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Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Lachlan Pitman says
great job, thank u for this useful post!