How To Find A (Good) Babysitter

A reliable babysitter, (as distinct from a nanny or childminder who cares for children during the day time), is a very valuable asset for any hardworking, busy family. It gives mum - and dad - the chance to escape, to have some down time, knowing that the kids are safe and in good hands. But finding someone trustworthy might seem a daunting task. Here's how to go about it:

  • Use the local grapevine. Chances are that some of the other families you know have a sitter and are happy to refer them to you. Personal referrals of this kind are probably the best way to start your search.
  • Babysitting co-operatives. Across the country there are groups of parents getting together to offer each other babysitting. This is an excellent way to find someone reliable, as the system works on goodwill, and even if you don't know every parent in the group, you do know that they are a parent in a similar situation to you. Increasingly groups like this are using social media as a way to make themselves known to the community, so try a search through facebook, Twitter, or other similar sites to get started.
  • Online babysitting agencies. There are a large number of sites of this nature helping families to find not just babysitters, but nannies, childminders and au pairs too. Generally they allow you to do a postcode based search, and some of the sites have the added feature of allowing parents to post testimonials about individual carers, which could help you to narrow down your search.

Are They The Right Person?

As is always the case, handing over the care of your children to another person can feel very difficult. Following these tips will help you to feel reassured that your children are in safe hands while you are out:

  • Ask for a criminal records bureau check. Many people who work regularly with children will have an existing CRB disclosure that they can share with you. If your chosen babysitter doesn't, the CRB system allows any individual to apply for one though there will be a fee, (which you could offer to cover the cost of, if it buys you peace of mind).
  • Ask for, and take up, references. Ideally you would be able to meet with, or talk on the phone to the referees. You might feel a little awkward about following up references if the potential babysitter is someone already known to your friends or colleagues. Don't let this stop you making sure that this is the right person to be caring for your children.
  • Check the potential babysitter's first aid knowledge. Again, many people who do this kind of work will have some formal first aid training. If your potential babysitter doesn't, consider whether you want to ask them to complete a course (at your expense). If you don't want to do this, make sure you discuss the measures you would want taken for your child in an emergency, in sufficient detail, so as to put your mind at rest.
  • If you are asking them to care for children under the age of 2, make sure they demonstrate an understanding of the issues that can arise when caring for such little children. While young people are often good candidates for babysitting work, they may not possess the necessary wisdom for caring for a new-born baby.
  • Try and meet with the potential babysitter at a time when you can see them with their own children, other children they care for, or your own children. There is inevitably a degree of artificiality in situations like this, but it will nevertheless give you some sense of what they are like with children.
  • Ask the candidate questions such as 'What would you do if...?' or 'How would you deal with...?', with you filling in the blanks with events that may occur during your absence. In posing these questions you are trying to gauge the emotional maturity of the person, seeing whether they can stay calm in a crisis, are level headed, and child-focused in their thinking.

Things To Be Clear About

Depending on the ages of your children, there are any number of potential situations that may arise while you are out, that you would prefer to have handled in a particular way. Make sure you give the babysitter clear guidance on any of the following that may apply in your household:

  • your rules on bedtime, screen time, and phone time (for older children)
  • what you would like the babysitter to do if your child wakes up and is either distressed at your absence, or uses it as an excuse to try and stay out of bed,
  • any parts of your house that are no go areas when you are out,
  • how to meet requests for drinks or food,
  • the action they should take if a child states that they are poorly, or it becomes clear to the babysitter that they are ill,
  • whether you want the babysitter to answer the phone or the door on your behalf,
  • how to proceed in the worst case scenarios, such as a fire, or a child / the babysitter themselves sustaining an injury that requires medical attention.

How To Help Your Child Adjust To The Babysitter's Care

Most very young children will not realise you are out and that they are being cared for by someone else, but as they mature, their awareness grows. If mummy comes to kiss them goodnight in her best dress and high heels, they will realise that something is different tonight! There are arguments for and against telling your young child that you are going out, and you are the best judge of what will be more distressing for your child - knowing, or not knowing and possibly finding out. Ultimately, the babysitter may have to deal with some tears and sadness, but over time, most children realise that you always come back, and are there in your bed as usual in the morning. Offer your child plenty of reassurance, but be calm and upbeat as you say goodbye. Otherwise, you subconsciously confirm for them that they are right to be worried. Leave your babysitter with guidance on how to cope, and head off out; remember, you are entitled to time out from being a parent.

What Else Do I Need To Do?

You've found someone trustworthy, reliable and that your children are happy with, so now is the time to build and maintain a relationship with your new babysitter. It is wise to:

  • agree payment terms that reflect the local going rates for this kind of work,
  • pay them on time,
  • make them feel welcome in your home (providing refreshments if appropriate),
  • always leave them as many contact numbers as possible,
  • be home on time - unless you have agreed that you can ring if you're going to be late and they are happy to stay on.

And then, you really can head off to that smart restaurant you have been promising yourselves for months!

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This internet site provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your own health or the health of your child, you should always consult a doctor or other healthcare professional.