How To Choose The Right Babysitter

It’s challenging to find someone who you could entrust your child with while both of you work outside the house for long hours. You can work peacefully only when you are secure in the knowledge that your children are in good hands. In the absence of grandparents at home, this would mean having a good babysitter. However, finding the right babysitter can be quite a challenge in itself.

Here are a couple of pointers to make this process easier:

Begin with the right attitude: Yes, you do feel guilty about keeping the baby away from you throughout the day but once you accept the inevitable, you might have a better outlook towards it. First of all, don’t feel that you are hiring a substitute parent. No matter how conscientious the sitter, she will not care for your child like you do. It is also unfair to expect a total outsider to play the role of a parent. She is not equipped to do it. She will only mind your child while you are away. But you need to ensure that she is a decent, kind person, and then allow her to respond with her own good judgment.

Word of mouth contacts: Your best bet for finding a reliable and capable babysitter is the recommendation of someone you know and trust. If you’re new to the area and don’t know how to go about finding a sitter, ask your neighbours or office colleagues for recommendations, inquire at your place of worship, or ask staff in your pediatrician’s office for suggestions. A good strategy would also be to put the word out to your social network.

How to choose:

  • Age: It depends on your needs. If your child is going to be alone with the sitter, start with someone old enough and mature enough to do the job. Even though preteens do make wonderful playmates and minders for babies, it’s best to have someone over 14.
  • The interview: Let your parent’s instincts come into play. Ultimately, you’re the best judge of an individual’s capabilities about handling your child. This is the time for some direct questions and answers. Does she seem to be a warm, and friendly? Does she seem to like children and to be comfortable around them? Does she come across as the type who would get easily irritated? It’s best to be somewhat cautious. Talk to her, watch her interact with your child, and then decide for yourself. If the sitter is an adult, find out about her previous childcare experience and your comfort level with her personality. Find out about her previous employers and make the effort to know their experience of her. Ask her how she would handle emergencies. Find out how she’d respond when your child disobeys or doesn’t follow her directions. If you have older children, find out how interested she is in entertaining them with games and other activities. You don’t want someone putting your child in front of the TV while she chats on the phone with friends. Remember, there’s no such thing as an irrelevant question when it comes to your child’s safety and well-being. Trust your instinct. Even if the sitter answers all of your questions to your satisfaction, don’t hire her if you feel uneasy about her.
  • Clear communication: If you feel positive about a sitter, be clear in your communication with her. Give her the general information and specific instructions about your child and your home. State very clearly what you want her to do in your absence. Describe the routines in your home, particularly the ones that involve the child. If you feel strongly that your child should not watch certain violent television programmes, make her understand it. Check her responses to this. If she seems reluctant or unhappy about certain guidelines, you may want to think again about employing her. Don’t come to any decision till you have all your information. A parent has every right to expect the sitter to follow these general guidelines.
  • The payment: The interview is the proper time to discuss the rates. Does the sitter charge or is the parent willing to pay a higher rate after a particular time? This is also the time to settle the matter of transportation. Does the sitter expect to be picked up and returned home in case of delay?

Once you decide on a sitter, there’s still much work to be done.

Preparation: Prepare a sheet of vital information for your sitter, and leave it in a convenient place such as directly over the telephone. The list should include:

  • Your name, home address, and phone number. This may seem unnecessary but, in an emergency, like medical or fire, sitters sometimes blank out while trying to give this information over the phone.
  • The name, address, and phone numbers where you can be reached.
  • The phone numbers of your doctor, the police department, and the fire department.
  • The name and phone numbers of neighbours, close friends or relatives to be contacted in an emergency. Make sure you have cleared this with them people in advance.
  • Take time to show the sitter the location of essential things. Help her understand how she can get in touch with the security personnel if you live in an apartment complex. Point out emergency or fire escapes. Leave a flashlight handy in case of a possible power failure. Test the batteries. Explain where to find Band-Aids and show her simple home remedies for a bump or a bruise. However, she should not be allowed to give medication to a child without checking with you.

Family policies: Each family and situation is different but there are general rules and procedures that need to be in place. Are you ok about the sitter using your landline to make personal calls? If so, it makes sense to specify the length of phone calls in case you need or want to call home. Is the sitter allowed to have a friend for company sometimes? Usually, this, on a baby-sitting assignment is not a good idea. What are the rules about answering the door? A sitter shouldn’t let anyone into the house, no matter who they may claim to be.

On duty: After the sitter arrives for the first time, plan to stay on for at least 15 or 20 minutes. It’s perfectly normal for your child to burst into tears when he or she realises that you are actually going to leave them. Between 6 and 12 months, babies develop separation anxiety, becoming wary of new situations and new people. See how the sitter handles this situation, distracts and befriends the child. Resist the temptation to sneak away without saying goodbye. This could lead to anxiety about you disappearing again without warning. Your child may still cry, but will cheer up in a few minutes as their attention turns to the babysitter. Soon the tears will fade and the child will accept the babysitter as a part of their world.

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