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Leaving your children in the care of someone else is hard enough as it is, especially when you’re a new parent. Finding a babysitter who’s available when you need them and is not only reliable and trustworthy but also affordable, can be pretty difficult.
We’ve outlined the procedure to find a babysitter to guarantee a safe choice when it comes to the care of your little ones. One that leaves your children happy and you feeling confident all will be well during your time away from home.
Where to Start?
Because only the best is good enough for your children, your best bet would be to rely on people you already know, and your child is familiar with. Family or good friends can be asked to babysit; if they live close, that is.
But what if they’re unavailable or you need a babysitter on a more regular basis? Neighbors you trust could likely occasionally help out here. You could also consider a co-op with other befriended parents, neighbors, or other social organizations and swap sitting for sitting, rather than in exchange for money.
This way, you won’t have to feel guilty for asking, as you’ll be returning the favor. It can also improve the community cohesion.
The Next Step Up
If these suggestions don’t work for you or you need someone on a more regular basis, consider finding a babysitter by asking around in social organizations, activities, or networks your family or children are engaged in.
How about asking the daycare, school, church, sports assistants, or camp counselors if one of the people you know—and your child is comfortable with—is available for private supervision?
Websites, Apps, and Agencies
If all else fails and you’re unable to find a babysitter you trust and who’s available when you need, you may want to look into babysitter websites and apps. These sites and apps connect parents to reliable babysitters and of course, have the familiar profiles to browse.
Sitters can update their profiles with specific information and skills, such as first aid and CPR or working with special needs. Sites and apps can often run a background check for you if you would like to have one. You should still do your own reliability screening if you find a potential candidate.
Alternatively, a local nanny agency may be able to provide you with the sitter you need, and they will have done all basic screening for you.
Do Your Expectations Match?
To make sure all parties involved know what is expected, you’ll have to state your needs in a babysitter, so you can make the best choice. Writing down your expectations helps you narrow down the number of people you will speak to in person.
- Availability: Think about how often and at what times you need them. Will it be daily, weekly, monthly? Day time or overnight? How many hours? What about last-minute requests?
- Extra duties: Is your sitter required to cook for your children? Tutor them? Does he or she need a driver’s license and/or car to transport your kids during sitting hours? Does sitting involve dealing with feeding or walking pets? Which skills are a must-have, and which are a nice extra?
- Cost: What is your budget? Do their expectations meet yours? Is extra payment required or fair for extra duties?
- Safety: Are they trained in and experienced with first aid and CPR?
- Specialties: Do they need special skills, for example, training and experience with special needs or disabilities?
- Past experience: Ask for past experience and references with phone numbers.
- Engaging kids: How will they be spending time with the kids? Fun or educational activities or watching television?
Once you have your expectations checked and narrowed down potential candidates, it’s wise to pick your two best options and walk them through the same procedure. You’ll not only find your favorite choice this way but can easily screen for a reliable back-up at the same time.
You won’t take it lightly to trust someone with your kids, so doing some thorough research is advisable. And no, it’s not weird to ask to actually check their references.
Aim to get at least two or more references per candidate and call them. Though asking for references via email can provide you with a lot of valuable information, you may not notice silences, hesitations, or enthusiasm that you can pick up on by making a call.
Ask the references their feedback on the potential sitter and how well they performed in the past. You may want to include questions that are specific to your family’s needs.
If a background check isn’t provided through a website, app, or agency, you can have one done through the local police station or through a private company like US Search.
This is specifically important if you don’t know the candidate prior to hiring them. A standard background check will make sure there’s no criminal record, the candidate has not committed sex offenses, and that the social security number is verified.
It’s advisable to do a test run with both candidates before committing to anything. You can check for punctuality and have a supervised experience, rather than just leaving your children in their care from the start. You may want to pop out to run an errand or pick up another child, but before and after you have time to explain things and monitor what’s happening.
You can write out the routine that your children are used to, likes and dislikes, allergies, and other child-specific information they need. Walk them through, while answering questions and showing them where everything is. This process already gives you a chance to gauge their engagement, level of experience, and confidence.
Observe Interaction With Your Kids
During the test run and before running an errand, ask your potential sitters to do an activity with your kids or play with your baby, and see how they interact. You can notice their level of confidence and comfort when dealing with kids while observing your children’s response to them. It’s essential your sitter’s style of supervision and interaction is aligned with your parenting-style.
Does Your Child Like Them?
If you haven’t already noticed during the observations-session, ask your child (if they can talk) what games they played or what happened when you were gone to gauge their comfort level with the sitter. Their answers and enthusiasm or lack thereof provide you with enough information and gives an idea of the level of engagement you can expect when away for real.
Many children cry when parents leave, so paying attention to their feelings and behavior on returning provides more valuable information than when you leave.
First Date Without Kids!
Now that you have picked your favorite within your budget, it’s time to go out! It’s good to have a certain routine when leaving your children with the sitter.
- Ask them to come early, settle in, and go over emergency procedures.
- Explain ground rules like no guests, don’t take the kids out without permission, and no calling or texting on the job (unless kids are sleeping).
- Provide (emergency) contact information.
- Inform them of the schedule and routine (feeding, bathing, sleeping).
- Hand them money to order food or provide a meal, if needed.
- Say your goodbyes and leave.
- Call to check in when you expect a difficult moment, like a child refusing to sleep, and provide tips.
- Ask for a debrief afterward, specifically ask for situations you expect might have been difficult.
- Make sure they get home safely.
Finding a babysitter may be a lengthy process, but you will thank yourself afterward for having done the work. You’ll be able to leave with confidence, knowing your kids are safe and happy in their care.
Try to build a relationship with your sitter, though, rather than just handing them money and seeing them out immediately after coming home. It will pay off in the end and build a more solid base between you.