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Tips on Choosing a Babysitter

Image for childrens iron supplements If you’re the parent of an infant, young child, or older child, chances are you will need a babysitter at some point. Perhaps you work outside the home, or maybe you just need to get away for an evening. Whatever your situation, you want to be sure your children are in good hands. A babysitter can be a big help, as long as you hire someone who is mature, experienced, capable, and who cares about your children. Here are some tips on choosing a good babysitter:

Finding A Sitter

Your first challenge is recruiting a potential babysitter. Here are some ideas:
  • Start looking for a sitter early. If you wait until the last minute, you may not have as many people to choose from.
  • Ask around. Ask family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers if they know of any good babysitters.
  • Advertise. Post ads in churches, civic organizations, high schools, or newspapers.
  • Find certified babysitters. Look for classes by the Red Cross or YMCA.
  • Check your phonebook for sitting services. Here are some things to keep in mind:
    • Services with an insurance bond will cover certain damages or losses to your property. However, most are not likely to protect your children in any way.
    • Check to see if the sitting service conducts criminal history checks and screens its employees.

Hiring A Sitter

Once you have a list of possible babysitters, you can begin the screening process:
  • Check references carefully. Contact previous employers, teachers, neighbors, and relatives. Ask them about the candidate’s qualifications as a babysitter.
  • Interview potential sitters. Look for candidates that are responsible, honest, patient, positive, competent, and caring. Here are some questions you may want to ask:
    • How long have you been babysitting?
    • What age groups have you worked with?
    • Do you know cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)? Are you certified in CPR?
    • Have you taken any baby-sitting training or first-aid courses?
    • What days and hours are you available to sit?
    • How would you handle a difficult situation, like an emergency, an illness, or bad behavior? (Look for answers that are positive and helpful.)
  • Observe sitters. You want a sitter with whom you and your children will be comfortable. You should observe their interactions with you and your children. Here are some tips:
    • Choose a sitter with whom you can relate—someone who shares your ideas about taking care of children and with whom you can be frank.
    • Choose a sitter who loves children and relates well to them. The sitter should:
      • Give children plenty of attention and enjoy playing with them
      • Use a gentle tone of voice
      • Smile and laugh with children
      • Use positive ways to help children behave (not hitting, slapping, shouting at, or scaring them)
      • Keep the child comfortable and clean
  • Consider the age of the sitter. In terms of the babysitter’s age, here are some things to consider:
    • How old are your children? In general, the younger the child, the older the sitter should be. For example, you probably wouldn’t want a 12- or 13-year-old taking care of a child under age three.
    • How long will the sitter need to watch your children? If it's for overnight, the sitter should be older.
    • Many capable babysitters are preteens or young teens. However, if your sitter is a minor and something happens to your children while you are away, you are legally responsible.
To keep a closer watch on the sitter, technology offers a solution. Surveillance cameras or nanny cams have become popular in recent years. They can be easily installed, for example in a child’s room, and the recording reviewed later.

Before Leaving

Have the sitter arrive 15 minutes before you leave. Make sure the sitter knows:
  • Where you can be reached (address, phone number)
  • Rules about meals, play, TV, computer time, and friends
  • General safety guidelines, including:
    • Important names and phone numbers
    • Potential hazards
    • Tips on bathing and changing the child
    • Ways to handle an emergency
    • How to keep the play areas safe

Talking to Your Children

You should talk to your children before and after babysitting. Before the sitter arrives, remind your children about safety, their rights, and how they should behave. After the sitter leaves, ask your children about what they did, what games they played, and if anything happened that made them feel uncomfortable or afraid. Lastly, ask them if they liked the babysitter.

RESOURCES

American Red Cross http://www.redcross.org

TLC Child Care Locators http://www.childcarecenters.org/

CANADIAN RESOURCES

About Kids Health http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

Canadian Red Cross http://www.redcross.ca/

References

American Red Cross website. Available at: http://www.redcross.org.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website. Available at: http://www.missingkids.com/.

The Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://www.nemours.org/index.html.