How do I choose a babysitter?

Choosing a babysitter should not be a snap decision, these tips will guide you on what to look for in a babysitter.

There are many decisions to be made when it comes to your young children and finding the right babysitter is a very important decision. The following tips from Michigan State University Extension will guide you through the process of finding a good fit for you and your children. Please note that these guidelines are intended to help parents find occasional babysitters, not full time child care providers.

Where to start?

  • Ask a family member, contact friends and co-workers to get their recommendations and trade childcare suggestions with friends and neighbors. If a sitter who was strongly suggested doesn’t work out, it’s ok, just keep in mind what’s best for your children.
  • You’ve found a potential sitter, now what? Ask for a one-on-one meeting at your house. It’s important to see how a potential sitter is with your children and while a first time meeting may be a bit awkward, you’ll still come away with some feeling for or against this person.
    • Ask for and check, references.
    • Talk about misbehavior and how they need to address this issue.
    • Introduce the family pets.
    • Ask potential sitters if they have taken a babysitting class. If you have a sitter you like and they haven’t yet taken a class, offer to pay for them to take the class. Check with your local Michigan State University Extension office, local Red Cross office, middle and high school or the hospital.
    • If you have an infant ask what they know about shaken baby syndrome and safe sleeping guidelines. Give them an opportunity to ask you questions which will also let you know more about this potential sitter

Once you’ve found someone you’d like to hire; you might want to hire them to spend a couple of hours with you and your kids as a trial run before leaving them alone with your kids. This will give you an opportunity to see how everybody begins to interact with each other. If you feel comfortable at this point you could then hire them as a parent helper on one or two occasions while you are cleaning out the garage, or holding a yard sale. The parent helper situation gives the potential sitter limited responsibility with you still on-site to observe. These trials runs should help you feel confident that the right choice of sitter is being made.

Red flags to pay attention to before hiring a new sitter:

  • The person just doesn’t warm up to your children, they seem indifferent. Even shy sitters will become comfortable with your children and interested in what the kids have to share with them.
  • You check out social media sites and don’t like what you find there.
  • None of the references you’ve been given have working phones.
  • Your children don’t seem comfortable with the sitter. You know your children and how they react to new people. Watch their reactions and listen to what they tell you.
  • Follow your instincts even if the new sitter is the daughter of your best friend.
  • Watch your child’s reaction when you tell them a sitter they know is coming and listen to what your child says about a sitter, if you get negative feedback you’ll need to investigate further to find out the rest of the story.

Finding the right sitter will not only help ease your mind when you leave your children in someone else’s care, it may turn out to be a very positive and long term relationship in the life of your children.

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