By Kelly E. Nault, M.A.
Babysitters play a crucial role in the life of a family: they give parents freedom. Parenting 24/7 can put any mom or dad into the “deep end” of parenting. When parents work out at the gym, take a class that inspires them, spend time with close friends, or go on "date nights", they are filling up their energy tanks so they can have more to give their children. Quality time away from your kids is just as important as the quality time you have together as a family.
In my book, When You’re About To Go Off The Deep End, Don’t Take Your Kids With You, I state: “Self care for moms (and dads) needs to be a necessity—not a luxury.” Having a babysitter you can trust can dramatically increase your ability to take time, put yourself first and recharge. You'll have more to give your children, especially when you find a babysitter you can trust. The first step to finding one is to establish policies for your babysitters.
Successful Babysitter Polices For Parents to Follow
Having babysitter policies in place makes it easier to find good people who will care for your children and maintain your "house rules" (and not just let your kids run wild!). Even if you've already found a good sitter, it's worthwhile reviewing your expectations, setting up policies and communicating them clearly. You can use the following successful babysitter policies as a guide:
1.Find a babysitter that is either a trusted family friend (trading childcare can be a great way to save money and build community) or a highly recommended person with relevant experience. This is an important consideration, most especially if your children require any special care.
2.Make certain your sitter is over the age of 12 and has taken a basic babysitter course and a First Aid course. If they haven't yet taken a course (and you really like them), offer to pay for the course for them.
3.Have the babysitter spend time with you and your children before you leave them in charge.
4.Be aware of how your children react when they find out who is going to be their sitter. Pay attention to the comments they make—they may be telling you of past or potential problems.
5.Prepare firm, yet kind instructions—in writing—for your babysitter. Include your children's bedtime time and routine, your expectations once the children are in bed, and house rules for the sitter (for example, no friends over without asking, can use their phone/cell as much as they want after the children are in bed, what they can eat, where they can sleep if tired, etc.).
6.Have your babysitter arrive 30 minutes before you have to leave so you can have enough time to:
_ Go over your instructions together, answer all their questions and make sure they are comfortable with your house rules
_ Review bedtime(s) and routine in front of your children (so they don't try and take advantage of the sitter)
_ Make sure the sitter knows all the emergency numbers and how to contact you
_ Communicate your children's special needs
_ Take them on a tour of your home before you depart and give them a key (in case they have to take the children out).
What to Include On the List for Your Sitter
YOU can make it easier for your babysitter to take really good care of your children and to respond to emergencies. Simply leave the following information with them:
_ Your full name (often babysitters don’t know this)
_ Where you will be and the phone number there
_ Your cell phone or pager number
_ Emergency phone numbers (fire, police, hospital, etc.)
_ Children’s names, ages, birth dates, weight, hair and eye color (in the unlikely case one of your children is lost)
_ Any allergies your children have (including food and medications)
_ Home phone number and home address
_ Home address
_ The alarm code/security code
_ Full names and phone numbers for neighbors, friends and close relatives
_ Location of flashlights and/or candles
_ Location of medicines (if children are taking them) with clear instructions as to time and dosage
_ Any information about the pets you have (such as feeding, care, sleeping arrangements, etc.)
_ Emergency supplies
_ Instructions on how to use the appliances, TV and other media in your home.
Knowing that you've taken the extra time to find a good babysitter and to give them all the information they need can make your evening out more relaxing. So get going with those policies and instructions ... then enjoy your time out!
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