Babysitting Basics

One of the hazards of winter is going stir crazy trapped in a house full of kids. If you don’t have a sitter, the time to get one is now! Good sitters are few and far between, but if you can find a responsible 7th or 8th grader, usually they are not so involved with extra-curricular activities and homework that they are never available. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have him or her around for a few years!

There are a few things that you will want to clarify with the person you are entrusting your children to:
  • Check references! Referral from someone you trust is ideal.
These things need to be negotiated prior to the first job:
  • What are her (or his!) rates? Often, teens don’t have enough experience or assertiveness training to quote a fee for their services. You should have an idea what others are paying per hour, per child. For example, you may pay $5 per hour for the first child and $2 for each additional child. Check the rates in your community.
  • Does s/he have a driver’s license? A car? Will you be needing to pick your sitter up or do they have another way get to your house. The employer usually bears responsibility for getting the sitter home after dark. Do you want to allow your child to ride with others? Are the required car seats available? Is there someone available for transport in the unlikely event of emergency.
  • Are you looking for someone who is available evenings? weekends? 
  • Invite him/her over to meet the children and to discuss routines, bedtime rituals, discipline, playmates, outings, and activities
  • Discuss special needs your kids have regarding diet, health problems, allergies, fears, etc.
  • Show where phones, emergency phone numbers, first aid kit, flashlights, smoke alarms, thermostat, and message board are located.
  • Schedule a practice session: stay in the background, observe how s/he interacts with your children. Explain things s/he does well, point out what needs to be done differently.
  • Make clear your rules for her, preferably in writing: regarding homework, TV (e.g., only PBS, no other TV unless kids are asleep), computer use, snacks, no company, no texting while the kids are awake, no smoking in the house or around kids, no spanking, tidy up after self and children, and any other guidelines you deem appropriate.

Note: The Red Cross offers a six hour baby-sitting course that covers multiple aspects of baby-sitting including responsibility, leadership, safety, handling, and first aid in emergency situations. They may be able to refer a teen who has completed the training, or you may want to encourage your novice sitter to attend a session. For more information, contact your local Red Cross chapter.- RDW 3-3-09

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