Friday, September 28, 2012

5 Tips for a Great Babysitter Experience

Every parent needs a little time off occasionally. Anyone who says they don't need and deserve a break from the 24/7 responsibility that is parenting is either lying or doing themselves a disservice in my opinion. Parenting is a joy and a privilege, but it is also a lot of work. What's worse is that parents often feel guilty for needing some time for themselves now and then. Stop!

Taking a time out is not only good for you, but good for the entire family. Personally, I know that my mom skills (not to mention my patience) start to wear thin when it's been too long since I've taken a break. When Big Sister was born, we didn't have any family living locally who could relieve us for a night out, so starting at a young age, we left her with a babysitter that we could trust. Since then, my folks have moved close, but we still rely on a strong roster of sitters to care for our little ones. I've discovered a few tricks that make the experience easier on everyone.

Whether this is the first time you're using a babysitter or the same old sitter who always comes over, it's always a good idea to prep the kids. Let them know that someone special is coming over to take care of them while you go out. My kids are young and their concept of time is limited so I usually do same-day prep or possibly day before if the sitter is coming in the morning. This is a great time to emphasize how much fun the kids will have while you are gone. For a first-time experience or with a new sitter, I sometimes even provide a special treat. I remember loving having a sitter as a kid because it usually meant having pizza and renting a movie.

This might seem obvious, but I've had sitters thank me for taking the time to show them around and walk through the basic plan before leaving. Even if it's a regular sitter or a relative, don't assume they know your kids' routine. I usually just leave some notes with a simple schedule of events, including any specifics such as what the kids should eat for a meal, and contact info with a number where we can be reached in addition to cell numbers. We also keep an emergency info sheet on our command center, which includes insurance plan ID numbers and our pediatrician's details.

If there are two times when kids are most likely to lose it with a sitter, it's when they realize you are actually leaving and when someone different is putting them to bed. Make the bedtime routine a priority when you are giving instructions. The more familiar the bedtime routine feels to little ones, the better they respond. Don't send your sitter in blind and expect it to go smoothly. Letting your kids accompany you as you show a new sitter around the house helps them feel involved and doesn't make goodbye seem so sudden.

When the time comes to actually walk out the door, don't turn it into some long, drawn-out ceremony with your child. Make sure you have everything ready: your coat is on, your purse is in-hand and you have your keys and phone. Give hugs, kisses, and remind your little one how much fun they will have and that you will be back soon. Then hit the road. They might cry, scream, cling, or have a full-on meltdown, but you should still leave. Separation anxiety is normal and not the end of the world. The few times we've had any sort of crying, the sitter assured us it stopped within minutes of our leaving. Usually it stops before we even get to the car. This is why you need to make it a clean exit. The longer you linger, the harder it is for them to understand. Once the door is shut, do not go back in! This is why you want to be sure you have your keys, etc before the goodbyes start.

After the sitter is gone, either that day or the next if the kids were in bed when you got home, talk about how much fun they had. Ask specifics. What games did they play? What did they eat for dinner? What did they like best? Be encouraging and enthusiastic about the time they spent with the sitter, "wow that sounds fun blah blah blah, etc."

With a little prep and a lot of encouragement, even the clingiest child can have a good babysitting experience. The first time is often the hardest, but don't let that discourage you from getting a well-earned break for yourself and time with your spouse!

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1 comment:

  1. Good to know for future reference! Thanks!!

    Thanks for joining Keep Calm & Link Up last week! We hope to see you again this Thursday evening! xo, Meredith @


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