Tags: Featured Article, Featured Article, In This Issue, Parenting
The Right Babysitter for the Job
Search and seek mission
When looking for your dream sitter, "The best place to start is in your own circle of friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.," says Sally Herrholz, executive director for Safe Sitter, Inc.
Herrholz advises parents to look for sitters who are trustworthy, enjoy being with children and have the attention span to watch and entertain them – as well as the patience and maturity to handle difficult behavior. Safety is also key – sitters should be willing to accept responsibility for the child in their care and be capable of staying calm in an emergency.
When determining whether a sitter is a good fit, Herrholz recommends asking about the sitter's age, babysitting experience with children the same age as your child and whether he or she has taken a class that includes choking rescue techniques for infants and children. She also suggests asking how the sitter would handle various "what if" scenarios, such as a nosebleed or a child's refusal to go to bed. In an informal poll on the Indy's Child Facebook page, reader Jenni G. adds that she asks potential sitters about their education, discipline style and how they will spend their time with her kids.
In addition, "It's definitely a good idea to ask for references and actually call them," says Herrholz. Parents should ask the references if their children like the sitter, if the sitter follows house rules and if there has ever been an unpleasant situation.
The "in house" solution
If you have children of varying ages, you may be debating whether an older son or daughter is ready to watch younger siblings. According to Herrholz, there are many factors to consider when making this decision. For example, "Does your child want to start babysitting? Has your child asked to babysit? Does your child seem capable of handling the responsibilities of caring for a younger child? Does your child show good self-control? Would your child feel comfortable home alone with no adults?"
For parents interested in helping a young teen become a prepared sitter, Safe Sitter classes are designed for 11 to 13 or 14-year olds, the age most siblings start babysitting their younger brothers and sisters, says Herrholz. Participants will learn basic development and childcare, behavior management, first aid, choking prevention and rescue, sitter safety and more. Enter your zip code at www.safesitter.org to find a Safe Sitter teaching site near you.
Your part in sitter success
Once you've chosen a sitter for your family, there are steps you as a parent can take to help ensure babysitting success. "Take care of unpleasant tasks yourself before leaving," Herrholz says. "For example, if your child typically resists putting on pajamas, have the pajamas on before the sitter arrives." She also recommends allowing 15-30 minutes to orient a new sitter to your home, children and routines, as well as discussing house rules.
Parents should leave the sitter with emergency contact numbers and the home's street address, says Herrholz. If the home does not have a landline, arrangements should be made to make sure the sitter has access to a phone while parents are gone.
Finding the right babysitter for your family can certainly take some effort. However, the peace of mind that comes from leaving your children with someone you trust is truly priceless!