IN AN EMERGENCY
TOYS AND ACTIVITIES
HEALTH AND BEHAVIOUR
Parents who are about to engage a new sitter should get to know - and trust - the sitter, and develop a professional relationship with him or her. Finding a good babysitter can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be. Friends, relatives and co-workers, and even local schools if you're new to an area, are good sources for new sitters and for recommendations. You want to know you can trust your caregiver with your child or children.
A good way to introduce a new sitter is to invite the person over to meet the child before using his or her services. You can observe if the child feels comfortable with the sitter, decide if the sitter is responsible enough, and ask questions to get some background on the sitter - experience with children the age of your own, and whether or not they have some first aid training and have taken a babysitting course. They should know the basic emergency procedures, like having your numbers near the phone to contact when you are out and who to call in case of emergencies.
A good sitter will ask you questions, too, and show an interest in the child and where important things may be found - baby bottles, diapers, food, games, books for reading, and so on. Talk about your child's routines for eating and going to bed, whether your child can watch TV or videos, and show the sitter around the house.
Next, try a test run - a short outing while the child is still up can cue you to how the sitter and your child get on together - playing, reading, talking. You are hiring someone to care for a very important person, so you, your child and the sitter should feel comfortable together. Talk with your child, if she is old enough. If your child is naturally outgoing, but says he dislikes the sitter, listen. If your child is shy, and the sitter seems to be trying to make friends right from the start, that's a good sign. Discuss any expected need for discipline and the way it should be handled.
Once you've decided the sitter is the right match, you should discuss rates and hours, and expected duties, like feeding, changing, bathing, brushing teeth and putting to bed. When you are going to use the sitter, ensure you leave your contact numbers, the names and numbers of a couple of friends as backup and the address of a neighbor, for emergencies. Be realistic about your time of return home and phone if there is any delay. You should arrange either a ride home or a taxi for her before going out.
If your child is ill, cancel the sitter. If your child is on medication, but is otherwise getting back to normal, tell the sitter about any medication to be given and leave a reminder note. Don't forget to discuss any allergies as well.
Leave emergency numbers - police, fire, ambulance - and show the sitter where you keep things like a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, baby monitor, flashlight and the locations of smoke alarms.
Your sitter should be informed not to use the phone unnecessarily, if there are snacks or drinks they can have and whether or not the TV or VCR can be used.
Children babysit for a variety of reasons, not only to earn some money. It's a good start at work experience, and good practice at being responsible, as well. No child under the age of 12 should babysit - most are not mature enough at 11 or under, and in most provinces, it is illegal to leave children in the care of a child under 12.
If your child is interested in beginning to babysit, ask him or her a few questions.
A child with younger siblings may have had valuable experience at home, minding children or infants and be ready for babysitting others. Youngest or only children may need some coaching in how younger children behave.
A good beginner babysitter - and even experienced ones - can benefit from taking a babysitting course offered by your local St. John Ambulance Branch or other recognized organization. It covers safety, responsibilities and rights, offers special tips on handling younger children and infants, what to do in emergencies and develops good habits, like using a checklist and taking along some things that might interest the child being babysat, like games, puzzles and books.
Any child taking on a new babysitting job, and especially children who haven't babysat much before, should get acquainted with the family and the child to be cared for, before starting. If your child is about to be hired as a sitter, ensure he or she is comfortable with the role, with the child and with the family. She should be able to refuse a job if she doesn't like the arrangement - things like the way the parents treat their children or the home is in a neighborhood she knows and doesn't like or she has to make her own way home. You want your child to be safe and comfortable, too, in her new role.
So far, we've talked about babysitting in general and mainly about younger sitters. You may have parents or other older relatives who don't mind the occasional role as babysitter. When considering older persons, keep in mind their lifestyles and physical condition. Are they healthy and active enough to keep up with your two-year-old an entire evening or day, or is it better just to have them look after your child briefly when you need to run an errand?
The same rule - do they like your children and do your children like them? - applies to sitters of any age. If Grandma and Grandpa want to take care of your child in their own home, is the house childproof? If they come to your house, is it accessible for them? Can they cope with a child who wakes in the middle of the night, and can they handle things like baths and feedings?
Babysitting should be fun and a rewarding experience for both the child and the sitter. As a parent, your first priority is your child, whether in the care of someone else or when caring for someone else’s child.