In this day and age with a lot of nut cases running around, finding someone you can trust with the most precious people in your life is not easy and should be taken very seriously. Trusting someone with your children isn’t a decision you can make lightly, so devote all the time it takes to find the right one. Here are some things to look for.
If your child is an infant or baby: The first time you get the courage to leave your baby alone can be heart-wrenching-which is why the person you select should be very experienced with infants and babies. They should be able to feed, burp and change your baby and should enjoy working with newborns. Ideally, this sitter should be trained in infant and baby CPR and first aid.
If your child is a toddler or a young child: Young children and toddlers can be rambunctious, so it’s important to find a sitter who can handle moods. In terms of personality, the sitter should be warm, competent and calm so that she can easily soothe your baby. The sitter should be fun and entertaining, but also able to set boundaries. CPR and first aid training is a plus, as is a sitter with lots of energy herself.
If your child is in elementary or middle school: As your child gets older, finding a sitter who’s a good match for your child in terms of personality becomes increasingly important. You want to find someone your child likes spending time with-and looks forward to seeing.
Where to look. The very best way to find a sitter is word of mouth. Ask your family, friends, co-workers and other moms at your child’s school if they have a great sitter they can recommend. You might even try your pediatrician. If you can’t find a sitter through a personal recommendation, try your local nursery school. Often, sitters will advertise on nursery school bulletin boards, or at other community centers frequented by parents and young children, like the local library or your church.
Do a phone interview first. First, speak with the sitter on the phone to get a sense of her experience and personality, and whether her availability meets your needs. You can also ask what they charge – there’s no sense in going through the rest of the interview if she charges more than you’re willing to pay.
Don’t cheap out. Another way to ensure you’re hiring a good babysitter is to offer good pay. You can get what you pay for in babysitting, and older, more responsible babysitters want more money than teens. Pay can start from around the minimum wage in your area for a teenage babysitter to $13 or more for an experienced babysitter with CPR certification.
Get references. Do this before the in-person interview. That will be your best insight into what kind of job they do. Feel free to ask references anything you feel necessary to learn as much as you can. And don’t just stop at one. Talk to several people the sitter has worked for. If they don’t have any references, think twice about hiring them.
Set up a meet-and-greet. If you like what you hear after speaking to references, set up a time for her to come over and meet your child. If possible, get the sitter’s parent to join them in the interview. If your kid is a baby or an infant, this is a good time to observe how the sitter handles him. If your child is older, you may want to give the two of them some unstructured playtime, so you can see how they interact.
Be clear and specific about your expectations. Now is also the time to talk about your expectations. Is it okay if your child watches TV? Is it important that your child be asleep by 8 p.m. sharp? Are you looking for a sitter to go over your child’s homework? Do you have a dog that you’ll need walked and fed? Talk through these scenarios to make sure that the potential sitter is a good fit.
Do a trial run. You can learn a lot by doing a paid trial run with you present. A good babysitter won’t blink an eye at the request for a trial run. Watch her interact with your children. Do you like her style? How about her teaching skills; her playfulness? Are you comfortable with the way she disciplines? How do the kids connect with the candidate? After all, they’re the ones who will be spending the most time with her, so seeing the child-sitter interaction first hand can be a big help when making your final decision.
Above all, trust your gut. A potential sitter may seem like the ideal candidate and have all the qualifications you’re looking for, but if there is something nagging at you and it doesn’t feel right, don’t risk leaving your child alone with that person.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T.S. Eliot