Hiring a new sitter can be an overwhelming experience for many. It’s hard to know who to trust and it can be difficult to leave your children with just anyone. While it can seem like a great idea to hire the neighborhood teen babysitter, it’s important to consider whether or not that person is reliable and trustworthy. Then, there is the question of whether or not you should track your sitter via video or monitoring devices. To help reduce the stress of choosing your next sitter, important information relating to these questions is provided in this article.
Your sitter should always come with a standard set of qualifications. They should be trained in doing first aid, particularly on children and infants as the processes can be different. First aid certification should be renewed each year, so if your potential sitter’s certification is expired, ask them to be retested before beginning the position. Also, remember that not only paper qualifications count; other personality traits and qualifications to look for may include a high level of maturity, and the ability to demonstrate responsibility. Don’t forget to do a background check before using any sitter that you aren’t directly familiar with; this can help to prevent issues down the road.
Observe Sitter-Child Interactions
It is also extremely important to see how the sitter interacts with your children. Observations should be carried out several times; have a few regular “play dates” where you are present in order to see how your child interacts with the potential sitter. Look to see if the sitter not only accomplishes necessary tasks like feeding and changing diapers, but also engages your child in age-appropriate play. Sitters should also be adept at handling any sibling squabbles or temper tantrums that come up. This is especially important in the case of having a special needs child, but certainly not exclusive to these situations, is the need to have a sitter that understands the limitations and capabilities of each child being cared for. A one year old child cannot be expected to respond to simple “no’” commands each and every time they behave badly; likewise, there is not really much point to sending a fourteen year old to the time out chair.
Sitter Age Requirements
While the age requirements for babysitters can vary from state to state, it is a good idea to use a sitter over the age of fourteen at an absolute minimum. In most states, leaving children alone before the age of 12 is simply illegal; this includes leaving children with a sitter under this age, too. Regardless of the legal factors, teens under fourteen do not usually have the maturity level to allow them to make fast, necessary decisions that come along with looking after children. Of course, this is not the case 100 percent of the time, so if you have a family member who is thirteen or just under the age of fourteen, you could certainly test them out if you feel confident in their abilities. There is certainly nothing wrong with having an older brother or sister above the age of fourteen look after a sibling, but even siblings should have first aid certification and be well versed in emergencies if you decide to go this route. It’s also worthwhile recognizing that sitters can sometimes be too elderly as well; while grandma may love to look after the children, if she can’t do so properly due to mobility issues, it is not really fair to expect very young children to simply cooperate with her. A teen sibling paired with a grandparent, however, can make a wonderful sitter team that everyone will love.
There are several legal issues that must be considered before choosing a babysitter. Firstly, when you place your child in the hands of a new sitter, you are legally saying that you trust that person to care for your child appropriately. Of course, this is something that comes as common sense to nearly all parents, but it is a good idea to be absolutely confident in your choice of sitters. As mentioned before, some states also have limitations on the age of a sitter or when you can leave children home alone; this is usually around the age of 12 but tends to vary based on the state. Your local courthouse should have this information available for you. Additionally, when hiring adult sitters who you don’t know directly, it can be a good idea to make sure the person is either bonded or bondable. If someone can be bonded, it means that they can be insured in case of theft or other issues within the house. Most babysitters don’t carry bonding, but the fact that they can be bonded suggests they have a clean criminal record with no history of legal issues.
A Note on Monitoring
More often than not, parents are installing video cameras or other methods of monitoring babysitters. While this can certainly be a good choice for some parents and their sitters, it is of vital importance that you make the sitter completely aware of the monitoring. Of course, it is completely legal to have a “nanny-cam”, as they are frequently referred to, running in your home at any time, and there is no need to inform any party that enters your home of this fact. The only exception to this rule is that the camera may not have audio sound recording without your sitter being notified. However, in the interest of fostering a good, honest, and forthright relationship with your sitter, it is recommended that a frank discussion be had before any monitoring commences. Often, just the suggestion that your sitter will be monitored will be enough to prevent any problems, but quite honestly, if a sitter would only misbehave off camera, you probably don’t want them to be your sitter anyway. Honest sitters will understand the desire to videotape at least a few sessions, and will work with you to find a way to gain your trust.
Many formats are used for sitter monitoring, and these can include using a long-range baby monitor, using a video camera without audio recording, or even teddy bears with hidden cameras inside them. Several online services also offer the ability to monitor via camera from a remote location; which of these is appropriate for your situation depends on the layout of your house and your goal for monitoring your sitter.
Informed Sitters Work Better
Choosing a good sitter doesn’t only mean finding out about the sitter; it also means teaching the sitter about your house rules, methods for child rearing, requirements, and emergency information. Before you leave your child in the hands of your new sitter, you should be sure that sitter has quick access to emergency contact information, whether that is you or another relative. This should include both your contact information as well as the child’s pediatrician and local emergency medical services. The information should include any pertinent medical information relating to your child. If there is medication your child needs to take, you should have your sitter practice measuring it out and giving the medication to your child in your presence. It can be a really good idea to start a binder or folder containing any information that could be needed in an emergency if you can’t be reached. This can include medical conditions and methods for handling issues related to them as they come up. It could also include information on special needs issues like learning disorders, autism spectrum issues, or any other issues related to your child’s well-being. If your child attends school, include the teacher’s information as well as information for the school’s principal and nurse. The more information you can give your sitter, the better able they will be to adapt to nearly any situation as it happens.
Notifying the School
It’s also important to remember to notify the school if your sitter will be present for picking up the child from school, either in the case of after-school pickups or if the child happens to become ill throughout the day. Most schools now have a policy stating only recognized caregivers can pick up a child without notification; this is usually limited to the child’s mother and father or other first degree caregiver. Also make your sitter aware that he or she may be required to present identification in order to pick up your child from school. While this can be a hassle for some, it is done for the safety of your child and is a worthwhile rule for schools to have.
The best way to think about hiring your next sitter is to consider what information and qualities you have yourself when it comes to caring for your child. Certainly, other mothers can make some of the best babysitters around. Consider asking around at a children’s group or mommy meeting to see if any other mothers are accepting children. Quite often, mothers will take on additional children so that they can stay home with their own kids, and this in-home care can be much warmer than daycares. Daycares are also another solution, but due to usually rigid hours, they are not necessarily the right choice for everyone. Whether you choose to hire a teen sitter or someone with years of experience in childcare, you should always check the licensing laws for your state. In some states, legal babysitters must have licenses and insurance.