ParentClick Santa Barbara

Sitter Steps


Thoughtful Hiring and Training Can Take the Anxiety Out of Leaving the Kids with a Sitter

Leaving children with sitters is one of the hardest hurdles for many new parents. After all, what is more important to us than our children? How are we supposed to hand over what is most important in the world to us to virtual strangers? Despite our understandable anxiety, learning to temporarily “let go” and let someone care for our children is something that every parent has to do at one point or another.

Here are a few steps that might make it easier:

1. Try to find a sitter who is already a part of your life or your community: your church, a family member, a friend’s daughter, a school, etc.

2. Ask questions. If the sitter is not someone you know well, ask for references and call those references. Talk to your sitter about his/her qualifications. Find out where he/she is from and if he/she had siblings. Get to know them. Does your sitter know basic First Aid and CPR? Discuss payment. Discuss house rules and whether your sitter is comfortable with those rules.

3. Make your expectations clear. Your expectations should include that the children are to be watched constantly while awake and checked on while sleeping. Discuss your sitter taking the children anywhere and whether or not you are comfortable with him/her driving. Discuss visitors. Discuss how you handle discipline. Discuss your child’s diet, schedule and emergency plans.

4. Go with your gut. Does this person seem responsible and reliable? Does he/she dress in a way that you are comfortable with? Did she/he show up on time? Does he/she seem distracted by technology, a cell phone, for example? You need to be comfortable with the person caring for your child. If there is any doubt, don’t ignore it. This is the time to listen to that “small, nagging voice.”

5. Start small. If you can, give your sitter a trial run. Try hiring the sitter for the first time on a day when you have some desk work or quick errands to do, but are not far away. Eavesdrop and observe how the sitter interacts with your child. Spend some time with the sitter yourself so you can decide if the sitter “feels right” in your home and with your child.

6. Don’t rush. When the day comes for you to leave the house with your child in the sitter’s care, ask your sitter to arrive a half hour earlier than you need to leave so that you can review contact numbers, meals or any things specific to that day.

7. Call in. The sitter should know that you will be calling in to see how things are going and that you expect a full report.

8. Try to enjoy your adult away time. If you have done your homework and invested the time necessary to help your sitter do a good job, you will have earned it!

9. Respect your sitter’s needs and time. This should go without saying, but if you said you would be back by 10:00 p.m, do your best to be back by 10:00 p.m. If you are going to be late, call. After all the time you have spent recruiting and training your sitter, it would be nice if BOTH parties—you and the sitter—felt valued and comfortable. Express your appreciation. If all goes well, you will be calling that sitter again very soon.

Following these steps should help with the anxiety so many parents feel leaving their children, especially those leaving children for the first time. “Letting go” gets easier with practice and as trust builds. With time, a sitter can become a valued extension of your own family.

[AUTHOR: Hilary Doubleday]

October 21, 2014

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