Some parents are anxious about leaving their child with a sitter, especially in the beginning. And that’s perfectly OK and normal. Finding a good babysitter is a rite of passage that most parents have to go through. Having a good babysitter enables you to do what you need to do and makes all the difference when you have a last minute, stressful situation pop up.
So here are some things to keep in mind when choosing babysitter and how to prep them, you and your children.
Screening a potential Babysitter
One of the classic ways to get a babysitter is to tap into a friend or neighbor who knows somebody. This would make the process of finding a babysitter much easier, however, don’t hire someone just because you know they’re looking for a babysitting job or because they’re “babysitting age” and you feel obligated. You still want to check that they have experience or have taken some kind of babysitters/first aid course.
Often, your immediate circle of friends and family will come up empty and you need hire outside that trusted circle. Ask other parents about babysitters that they’ve had and who they might recommend. You can also check with your child’s school – some have a list of local babysitters or older students who are available. Another option is to look into babysitting agencies that many cities now have that provide contact information for people who have experience and credentials.
When you do find a candidate or a short list of candidates, be sure to interview them before hiring them. Get basic availability, pay rate, contact information and a resume from them.
Here are some questions that some parents may not think to ask include:
- Not only does the babysitter know what to do in a medical or dangerous situation, but ask them if they have dealt with something like this in the past
- Have they ever had an emergency and how did they handle it?
- Don’t just ask them how they deal with behavioral issues, but ask them about the more difficult situations they’ve found themselves in with other people’s children, and how did they handle it?
- Do they drive or have somebody with a vehicle available in the event of an emergency (anything not 911 worthy)?
- (this is a really great question!) What do they consider important enough to call you? (this will show their confidence, priorities and independence)
Trusting a Babysitter Isn’t Just Earned
Trust is a huge, if not the most important factor when it comes to your children. No matter how much experience or how detailed a resume a babysitter has, if you have a nagging feeling about a potential babysitter, you can keep looking. The first time you leave a babysitter in charge will likely be accompanied by some level of anxiety even in the best case scenario – this is one of those scary parenting things. Try doing a test run with a babysitter to make sure all goes well. Rather than getting a babysitter for the first time when you have to leave town or be gone for a longer period of time, try hiring one just for 3-4 hours and go out somewhere fairly nearby, even just next door (it’s a great excuse to have an evening to yourself!).
Prepping your Babysitter For Success
It’s very common these days for babysitters to have taken a babysitting course. But a course is no guarantee that they’ll know how to respond to the various situations that can arise; it can still be scary to leave your children with someone new. So, for your own assurance, it’s a good idea to leave them some tips/guidelines:
- Don’t take the children to a very crowded area (like a fair) unless you’ve given permission to do so
- Don’t take the children anywhere too isolated in case you need help
- Give them a list of people that are allowed into the house or to give them a ride somewhere (a relative or one of your friends)
- Tell them they are allowed to veto anything that they aren’t comfortable with – if your babysitter feels unsettled, it will likely make your children feel unsafe as well
- Be aware of any allergies or dietary restrictions of both your children and of the babysitter
If you are leaving your child at the babysitter’s house, make sure you know the neighborhood and feel that it’s a safe one, especially if the babysitter plans on taking the children out. Likewise, if your babysitter is going to be looking after your children in your own home, make sure that they are familiar with your street and know where the closest stores are and which parks/routes to use if they take the children out somewhere.
A useful strategy when you’re preparing for a babysitter is perspective. Go online or contact a couple of different babysitter’s course providers and find out what they cover and how the instructors explain things. This way you will have a better understanding of what your babysitter has been taught (assuming they have taken one of these courses) and the language they are familiar with when dealing with children. Make sure everyone is on the same page – you don’t want any miscommunication.
Involve Your Child in Deciding on a Babysitter
Ultimately it’s your judgement that determines whether or not a babysitter will be watching your child, but your child’s approval should carry a lot of weight in your decision. When interviewing every babysitter, make sure that your child is there to meet them and talk to them as well. Seeing the potential babysitter with your child will also help you see if their interactions reflect your own parenting style – this will make things more comfortable for you and your children and make an easier dynamic for the babysitter. Involving your child in the decision tells them that you value their opinion and will continue to encourage open communication between you.
Overall, it is not only important for you to find a good babysitter that you’re confident leaving with your child, but also that your babysitter feels comfortable looking after your child. The first (maybe the first five times) you leave your child with a babysitter can be scary, but taking these measures will help ensure that everyone is safe, comfortable and hey maybe have some fun too!