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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tips on Tuesday: Selecting a Babysitter

Here is the original article that sparked the idea for today's post:

Five Tips for Selecting a Babysitter (Taken from an email newsletter from
Parents of young children need babysitters. Here are some things to consider when searching for the right babysitter for your family:
1. Find out if the babysitter is certified in infant and child cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

2. Parents of young children may want to choose a babysitter with the energy, ability and strength to run after toddlers.
3. Determine ahead of time if you need a babysitter who knows how to drive.
4. Ask how many families the babysitter has worked for in the past.
5. Ask your potential babysitter for references and check them!

Here's the reality of finding a sitter:
Frankly, I thought the idea of the article was great, but it didn't give me one piece of usable information. I'm going to try to give some hints and tips that might actually help a parent in need of a babysitter.

1. In real life, I've never asked if a sitter was CPR certified. Unless you need that designation for the child due to medical reasons, it was not my main criteria. Some were, some weren't--but what mattered to me was availability and if they would play with and love my kids for me.

2. Everyone wonders how you find a sitter to begin with! Start by asking neighbors who they use or who they know of. Word of mouth is where the best sitters come from. Even neighbors with tweens (too young to babysit for you, but too old to have a babysitter for themselves) generally know some sitters and they are sometimes more willing to give out a phone number since they know you won't be in competition for the same nights.

3. I found our first (and one of our greatest) babysitters through the guidance counselors at the high school. I met with one and asked for help finding students who would be great sitters. Due to privacy regulations, I was able to talk through characteristics and the counselor had several people he thought would be good. He gave them my number and they could call me if interested. (I couldn't be given their names/numbers for privacy reasons.) One called and she was awesome! We used her until she moved away for college, sniff.

4. Check your church or place of worship. Often, there are kids in the youth group who live near you. It's not too far to get them, you can introduce your children to them at church in advance. It is another great resource.

5. If you are willing to pay a little more money, you can check with the local colleges and universities for names. Many students going into education love getting paid to be with kids. College students tend to have a vehicle and could drive your kids to/from practices, etc. if you need them to. The downside is they expect to be paid a higher rate.

6. The same thing goes for nursing schools and nursing students. You can get some great help at these colleges, too. Again, the cost is a little higher.

7. Need late or overnight help? Try your local home nurses/visiting nurses group. They will have a higher rate than a college student since you pay the agency (including taxes and social security) and they pay the nurse. There is a certain peace of mind having a nurse in your home--especially if your child has medical needs.

8. Want to keep your sitter? Round up. If our sitter is there for 2 hours and 15 minutes, we round up to 2.5 hours and depending on what is in our wallets, we might add another buck or two on top of that. We pay our sitters a decent wage. I know we are sort of in the middle of what sitters get paid. We always tell a new sitter when we call to schedule that we pay $x.xx per hour for our three kids--is that amount acceptable to you? Being upfront leaves no hard feelings and let's everyone know what we pay so they can choose to say no.

9. Be on time. If you say you'll be home by 9pm--be home by 9pm. Tardiness is not acceptable for school aged sitters--especially on weeknights. If we find out plans are changing and we might be late, we call and ask permission to stay out late. In a way, the sitter becomes the younger version of your parents.

10. Relax and enjoy your time out. Please don't pester the poor babysitter every half hour. We sometimes check in once early on to make sure they crying kid settled down. After that, we leave her instructions to call if she needs help or if the kids won't calm. Let her decide if she needs you. We've been called home for kids who wouldn't stop crying--but she didn't need us adding pressure of calling every 20 minutes to check in. We checked once and asked if she wanted us to call back later. She said no, she would call if she needed us. After an while, she needed us and we wrapped up and came home.

I know that when I used to babysit, if the parents called too often during the evening to check on me, I'd find reasons to say no and I'd quit babysitting for them. Trust them to do the job you hired them to do.

One other source that is harder in some ways is your friends with children. A trade or coop is a wonderful way to get free babysitting. The down side is that you have to give up some of your time as well to return the favor. Plus side, other kids to play with, parents know how to parent children and it's free. We have done child trading off and on and have been happy with it as another option in finding a sitter.

Have fun and best wishes in your hunt for a sitter!

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