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What do I need to know, what questions do I ask, How do I work out what kind of babysitter I want?
There will be a time in almost every parent’s life when they have to hand their beautiful child/ren over to a babysitter. Whether this is a once off, a regular thing, for a few hours, or overnight; it is essential for the welfare of your child and your sense of calm to know that you have picked the right baby sitter for your little one.
If this is the first time that you have done that, it can be an overwhelming time. You may be experiencing mixed emotions. It is very typical to feel excitement (you deserve time too), sadness, worry, fear, relief and maybe a mixture of them all!
Thinking back to the first time I left my firstborn with a babysitter, I was a bit of a wreck. I played over every possible scenario in my head and created a whole booklet of information for my sitter of what my child liked, her routines, how to calm her. I also handed over an esky full of food to make it as easy as possible for her baby sitter.
The funny thing about this is: Ayla was about 18 months old, she was staying with my best friend, who was a veteran mom of 3 and had a child the same age. She laughed at me, screwed up my bit of paper, threw it at me and told me to relax and enjoy myself before seeing me out the door, helping herself to some food I had prepared and promising my child would still be alive when I returned.
I felt like a right dill.
For most people, there will come the time when we will have to hand our babies over to someone that we don’t necessarily know. It may be a long term sitter position. It may merely be for a night or a few hours. Either way, we want to be sure that we have made the correct choice.
This article will help ease you through this moment in your life by:
- Helping you work to out precisely what you want in a babysitter and the type that you are looking for.
- Helping you to ask all the right questions and gather the necessary information for finding the perfect sitter for your children.
- We have gone a long way to make this a seamless exercise for you. You can download our ‘Babysitter Hire Kit here’.
What Qualities Do You Need in a Babysitter?
Choosing a babysitter can be confusing and time-consuming! Trust me!
Have you put time into considering the qualities that you desire in a sitter and the experience you want them to have?
Do you require a sitter that is patient, kind and flexible? Or, do you need a babysitter that will stick to your non-negotiables and will stick to your routine? Do you want a babysitter who will ensure your children only eats the food that you prepare? Or are you happy with a babysitter that feeds your kids whatever is in the cupboard and does whatever they need to stay sane and keep your kids alive?
Whatever you are looking for, there is no right or wrong, but it must be right for you and your family’s needs.
The key to this is, to be honest with your values, ideals and the type of person you want to be taking care of your child/ren. Some parents have some particular requests or areas of care that they are not willing to compromise on, so by putting these down; you can make sure you find the right person for you.
This exercise helps you to define the ‘key criteria’ for the job.
I Have given this to other parents before and they have used it to send to potential babysitters to help them to prepare for the interview and to ascertain if this is a position that they would like.
After all, you do not want a babysitter who does not share your values or is not willing to be flexible. Other parents have also used this to help to advertise the babysitting position.
Key Criteria for Hiring a Babysitter
Draw a giant T on your paper or download our ‘Babysitter Hire Kit’ to undertake this exercise.
On the left side of the T diagram you will put down the qualities that you DO WANT in a babysitter; on the right side you will write down what you DO NOT WANT in a babysitter.
Sit down with your partner and fill it out. The key to this is sticking to your standards and being completely honest about the qualities you want in a sitter.
The things that you need to consider include:
- EXPERIENCE (length and type) – list the kind of experience that you want your babysitter to have had. For Example; the age of children they have cared for; the length of care (hourly, overnight). If you have kids with special needs or conditions, you may also like for them to have had some experience with this.
- QUALIFICATIONS – Some parents require that their babysitters have recognized skills to be able to care for their children. It may be that you would like your babysitter to understand child development or disability. You may not see this as an essential aspect of your choice. One thing to strongly consider is if the babysitter has training in first aid in case of an Emergency.
- QUALITIES – List the type of characteristics that you desire, you may like to consider some of the following:
- AVAILABILITY – how often do you require this babysitter? Are you happy to have a few babysitter contacts or would you like a regular one?
Create Babysitter Hit List
It isn’t what it sounds like.
Now that you know what you are looking for you can use this to finalise your applicants. TIME-SAVING!
Your hit list contains your top 3 – 5 prospects after working out precisely what it is you need from a babysitter and matching these qualities with your applicants. You can now get onto conducting your interviews.
What Do I Need to Know When Hiring a Babysitter?
I get that you are handing your mini-me over to another human! It is a big deal. If you are like I am, maybe you are googling if you can do a criminal background check on your potential applicants.
Planning on hiring from an agency? you can probably consider it done!
If not, you can ask questions and speak to references to seeking out the information that you need to have the perfect choice for a sitter and help to relax your mind.
It is vital that you get to know your babysitter and have an understanding of the type of person that will be caring for your children. Keep in mind that you also don’t want to scare the right applicant away, so try and make this more of a conversational interview rather than firing ammo at them like a drill sergeant.
What Questions Do I Ask Potential Babysitters?
In many cases, you will not know the potential babysitters. You need to get a sense of the person who may be taking care of your children. These questions are designed to give you complete insights into who you are interviewing. You can also ask for evidence with qualifications to ensure the information they provided is correct.
A helpful little tip for conducting an interview is to be confident but friendly. Remember, the babysitter is also getting a sense of who you are during this conversation, and you don’t want to turn them off if they are the right one!
- Have you had experience caring for children before?
- Also, have you had experience caring for (no.) of children before?
- Have you had experience caring for (age) children before?
- How have you displayed (your desired qualities) in your past babysitting experience?
- What is your policy/approach to discipline?
- Do you have any medical training?
- Have you encountered and had to handle an emergency before? How would you handle urgent matters?
- What do you feel is an event necessary for an emergency phone call?
- Moreover, what kind of activities will you do with our children?
- What makes you a great babysitter?
Outline some of your expectations and ask them if they are happy with that.
Some parents have a few non-negotiables or expectations that they require your babysitter to follow. It makes sense to ensure they are okay to follow suit with these. E.g. Our discipline routine is, are you happy to oblige to this? Or, Our children do not consume sugar, can you guarantee that you can keep to this?
- What will you do if our children play up or act out?
- What is your hourly pay?
- Are you happy to undertake a paid observation/transition period?
We have outlined this at the end of the article. If this is something you want to partake in, you will need to make sure your babysitter is happy to do so. If they agree it also shows that they are comfortable and confident in their abilities and even comfortable with you which is very important.
Ask to Speak to References
Many people will skip over speaking to references, DON’T!
If you are happy with the answers the babysitter provided, Speaking to your Babysitters reference means that you can substantiate all of the information they have given you. It also helps you to clarify further any questions that you may have and give you another parent/caregivers perspective on the person you are considering as an applicant.
1. The Introduction:
It is essential to introduce yourself and the reason that you are speaking to them.
- The referee may not be comfortable speaking on the phone, and this will help ease them into the conversation
- The referee may not be aware of them being a reference for the applicant.
This Intro Script will help you to begin the conversation.
Hello, this is (your name), and I am ringing because (baby sitters name) has listed you as a referee and I am considering hiring him/her. Do you have a minute to chat with me?
If the answer is yes, you can move on with the conversation. It may not be a good time for this particular reference to chat in which case you can arrange another time to call.
If the referee is not comfortable talking to you, it may not be a good sign. If you are prepared to give the potential applicant the benefit of the doubt you can try and call another reference.
2. Are you aware that (baby sitters Name) has listed you as a reference?
Let them know that your babysitter had them listed, or had given them as a reference. If they are unaware of this, it may not be a great sign (it also may mean that your babysitter is unaware that asking and informing references is the usual process to take).
- How did you meet your babysitter?
- Would you have the sit your children again? WHY?
- How old are your children?
- How many children do you have?
- Can you tell me what your experience with (babysitters name) was?
- Do you have any concerns?
- What do you like about having (babysitters name) as your sitter? What were their best qualities?
- How did your kids like her?
- Did your children say anything about (babysitters name) that you would like to share?
- How did (babysitter’s name) handle tasks such as (list a few that the baby sitter will be undertaking)
- Is / Was (babysitters name) excited or happy to see your kids?
- Was (baby sitters name) kind or patient with your children?
- Can (babysitters name) follow direction?
- How do you think (babysitters name) would cope in an emergency?
- How has (babysitters name) demonstrated (desired qualities) in their position caring for your children?
Observation and Transition
If you would like to see your potential babysitter in action, or if you need something a little extra to ease your mind, you may want to have a paid observation or even a paid transition period. It is a great idea, especially if you are hiring your babysitter as a regular person to care for your children.
I took time observing and transitioning my children into childcare to make sure they were able to ease themselves into it. It reduces the shock and isn’t so much a jump for your children when changing their routine and leaving them with other people.
Observation and especially Transition is extra important when your child is very attached.
What is Attachment?
A child’s attachment to a parent is very typical. It begins with a strong emotional bond you form from the birth of your baby. Your baby teaches you what he or she needs. The children-parent relationship is very typical, and in fact, it is VITAL for your child’s healthy development. You are your child’s net of safety.
A natural attachment can make it difficult for any child to become comfortable and feel safe in the care of another person. Their primary caregivers are ‘home base’, and this is why some children may cry or become stressed when you go to hand them to another person. Please note, it is okay if your children will happily be left with another person also.
The other side of this is that parents form an attachment to their child. It is perfectly reasonable, but you will also feel the strain, pressure, stress and pull of the heartstrings when your little one gets upset and reaches for you.
You may feel like you need an observation period with your prospective babysitter or babysitters. Some people feel like they need to see people in action and this is okay. It is an excellent opportunity for you to see how the sitter interacts with your children and how they handle their little quirks.
A transition can help ease your child into being comfortable in the care of someone other than you or another person they are familiar with.
In some cases, children/ren are very attached to their parents or a previous babysitter. Undertaking a gentle transition period can help remove the stress for all parties involved in the lead up to sitting.
The transition can happen for as little or as long as a time as needed. It depends on the needs and feeling of each child and parent. My first daughter, I felt required a prolonged and gradual transition into the care of other people.
I would spend a few hours every day with her for about two months when transitioning her into childcare (in all honesty, this was probably more for myself, and she could read that I was upset when leaving her and made the situation much worse).
The girl’s father used to joke to his friends that I was gradually transitioning myself rather than my baby. He was probably right. My second daughter was happy to go to anyone on most days and did not need the same level of support.
Take it Slow
Take the transition period slowly if you need to. It may be that you begin by doing things together with the babysitter. You may share a meal while wearing your baby or going for a walk along so that your baby and the sitter can form a relationship while you are there.
It is crucial that you are kind and comfortable towards the sitter during this time. Your baby/child will pick up if you are not.
Use Fun and Distractions
Laughter and decoys are a great way to help distract your baby from the fact that you are leaving. Some children (mine included) will put on a real show while mom is in the process of moving, 5 minutes after I am gone they have forgotten about me until I return. Which is why I come home with a comment, “they were fine until you came home, they didn’t even notice you were gone”.
You can use fun little activities and distractions to get out of the door unnoticed or to help the sitter build a relationship with your baby. You might distract them with a rattle, the offer of fun activity like hide and seek or watching their favourite movie with the sitter.
I often joke about these as ethical bribes. Many children will get into a habit with the sitter. Eg. They have dinner with the parents and the sitter arrives. They know they get to watch their favourite show or do a puzzle and will become happy to do so.
Bit by Bit
Remember, this is all about catering for the needs of your child AND YOU. You may like to take things bit by bit. Start by leaving your child for half an hour with their sitter and then an hour the next time, and so on.
Leave your emotions on the other side of the door.
Your child cares about you and is in tune with you. They will mirror your emotions. If they see you upset may also get sad. As hard as it is, when it comes time to leave your little one for transition or sitting, wait till you are on the other side of the door before your break down.
If this is your firstborn or first time leaving them, it can be so hard. The first time I left my eldest daughter in the care of another person I was a snot filled, wailing mess. But showing her was not going to help. I remember walking quickly to the door, running to my car and sitting behind the wheel sobbing for a good 20 minutes before I could start the car to leave.
Reassurance and Evidence
It is important to give assurance to your children that they will be okay and you will return. If your child is upset as you are leaving, let them know “Mommy and Daddy will be back, we will see you in the morning when you wake up”.
Also, reassure them using words and evidence on your return when they see you again for the first time. “I told you we were coming back”, you can then remind them of the fun they had by starting a simple conversation; “did you have fun with the babysitter?”
The prospective babysitter has to provide you with their time for observation and transition. It is only fair that you compensate them for that. It is also money well spent to help your child build a relationship with the sitter and for you to be comfortable and at ease when it comes to leaving them with another person.
ONE THING TO REMEMBER:
If you have used this process, you rest assured that you have been armed with everything to make the best choice that you possibly can.
It is important to remember that interaction with other people is healthy for your children and by downloading the ‘HIRING A BABYSITTER KIT’, undertaking the activities and using the processes and outlined questions, you have been very responsible in the decision-making process.
It is natural that you have a little bit of worry and fear. After all, your children are the most precious things in your life, and they have a way of instilling a level of protection in us that we didn’t know was possible before they introduced themselves to the world.
If you are still struggling with the idea, grab a glass of wine and a pizza. Block out a night with your partner or friends and have a ‘babysitter movie’ marathon. You may find that you have chosen a Mary Poppins, Mrs. Doubtfire, Nanny McPhee, or Fraulein Maria, to care for your babies.