It used to be babysitters were plentiful and easy to come by — teenagers in the neighborhood who everyone knew. There was once a day you could just pick up the phone and call down the street for a last-minute sitter. But today sitters are more likely to come from app-based services, as referrals from other parents, or names provided from the local high school. Many times, a new sitter is someone we don’t know personally. Or, even when the sitter is a teen who lives down the street from us, times have changed when it comes to safety and security. But parents still need to have their kid-free time. If you are hiring a sitter for the first time or just employing a new one, here’s a checklist of key items you should go through with every sitter you welcome into your home.
Find the Right Sitter
First, make sure the sitter is right for your family. Treat a new sitter like you would if you were an employer hiring an employee. Invite her to your house for an interview ahead of the day you'll need her to sit for your kids. Find out about school, friends and interests. Also look at her social media profiles. Make sure that you evaluate her readiness for the job, including how trustworthy she is, her experience level and ability to be responsible.
Do a Home Orientation
Give the sitter a home orientation. On date night, parents are often rushing out the door, flinging verbal directions and last-minute reminders. To a new sitter, all this information might not make sense in the flurry. To ensure she knows what is important about your home, give her a full orientation. This can happen at the same meeting as the interview or on a different day. Show her each exit out of the home, areas that are off-limits and walk her through any hazard plan your family has already practiced. Show her how to arm and disarm your home security system and when to do so. Let her practice using the alarm in your presence so you can see she is comfortable. If you don’t have a security system, but are considering one, modern security systems can be monitored wherever you are on date night, making it easy to check in without being intrusive. Explain to the babysitter how arming the system while she is home with the kids is a great way to stay safe. Last, make sure to walk through your emergency contact sheet and talk to her about what neighbors to go to if she needs help.
Discuss the Rules
Write down your rules and have them visible and handy for both your orientation meeting as well on the day she starts work. These might include your policy on having friends over, using electronics, talking on the phone, but also should include direction about your kids such as what foods they should or shouldn’t eat, bedtime routines, and whether your kids are allowed to have their friends over. If you are unsure of how comprehensive your rules should be, check out this list of 10 must-have babysitter rules.
Hang out with the Kids
Offer to have the babysitter over on a day you are home just so she can hang out and play with your kids. Of course, pay her for this time. But this will be a good opportunity for your children to get to know their sitter in a non-stressful situation. Have your kid show her his favorite toys and other things he likes. This practice run will help you observe how she deals with behavioral issues, redirection or engages them in a task. Assess her ability to remain calm, gentle, yet in control. Remember, teen babysitters are still learning how to care for children. Resist the urge to step in and handle situations for her. Instead, talk to her privately after the trial session and ask her how she thought certain situations went. Give her an opportunity to ask questions about how to manage things differently. This will help establish a trusting relationship between you and her and open communication lines.