When you first brought your new baby home from the hospital, you were probably inundated with babysitting offers from your family and friends, but as the newness of your baby has worn off, probably so have the sincere offers.
And even if they're not, there are my reasons you may want to consider hiring a paid babysitter instead of going with family and friends. As your kids get older, having a young, unrelated teenager babysit them can be a fun and special experience for them. A teen sitter is less likely to parent them as opposed to simply keeping them safe and having fun with them. If your children enjoy themselves when you are out, this will only make it easier for you to enjoy the time you have to yourself.
Also, if you are paying for the babysitting service, you will less likely worry about taking advantage of your friends and family helping you out. And, especially if your budget is a top priority, going with a local, responsible teenager may be your best course of action. Continue reading for 22 important facts you need to consider when looking to hire a teen babysitter.
22 Start the Hiring Process as Soon as Possible
Finding the perfect sitter can be a time-consuming process and definitely should not be rushed. Your best bet is to start looking for eligible sitters immediately. You can then begin vetting and training the ones who meet your criteria.
If you wait until you are in desperation mode, you may end up hiring a sitter you aren’t completely comfortable with. You also will not have given potential sitters a chance to get to know you or your children so they may be uncomfortable with the situation as well.
Keep in mind, it doesn’t hurt to have two or three sitters on your roster so that you always have back up if one or two are unavailable.
21 Cast a Wide Net When on the Hunt
There are many ways for you to zero in on the perfect sitter in your area. For starters, keep your eyes open in your own neighborhood for reliable teenagers who are interested in babysitting. When you take your baby to the park, do any children make a point of coming over to visit with them or lend them a helping hand on the swings or down the slide? Do you notice any teenagers who are there with a younger sibling or with a child they are in the process of babysitting? If so, make a point of talking to them and finding out if they are interested in babysitting for you.
Talk to your friends and co-workers about anyone they can recommend to you for babysitting. They may have teen family members or friends who are looking to earn some extra money. You can also ask for names of babysitters they themselves have used, but be prepared as many parents are hesitant to share their babysitters, especially when they have a good one!
If you have school-aged children, talk to them about the older children who monitor their classrooms at lunch time or who take part in mentoring programs with the younger classes. You can always send in a note to the older child to find out if they are interested in babysitting and then set up a meeting with the teen and their parent.
20 Don't Equate Age with Maturity
When it comes to hiring a teen sitter, from my own personal experience, I have found that the younger the better. Once a teenager is able to drive, they are usually busy with friends, studies, and extra-curricular activities. And, they may opt to find a steady part-time job as opposed to casual babysitting for extra cash.
If you can find a responsible and reliable 12-year-old, then go for it. If they work out well, you’ll be lucky to have them as your babysitter for the next three years. Don’t overly concern yourself with their lack of experience. Anyone can be taught to change a diaper--how they act with your children is top priority.
19 Consider Easing into the Process by Hiring a "Mother's Helper"
If you find a suitable candidate but are still nervous, hire them as a “mother’s helper” for your own peace of mind. A “mother’s helper” is kind of like a pre-babysitter. They are someone who amuses and entertains your little one while you remain at home. You can get some gardening done or finally clean out your basement or simply enjoy some Netflix and a nap while resting assured that your children are being cared for nearby and not just plopped in front of the TV.
Once you are confident that the sitter is perfectly capable of handling more responsibility, you may feel more comfortable heading out for an honest-to-goodness night on the town.
18 Hire the Appropriate Individual for Your Needs
If for whatever reason your child is high maintenance or has special needs, make sure you are hiring a suitable individual as a babysitter. If your child requires medication to be administered, you will definitely want to make sure the sitter is comfortable doing so. If you were hoping to find someone who can also take care of some light housework, then you are treading close to nanny territory. Especially when hiring a teenager, you want to ensure you aren’t overwhelming them on the job. After all, their number one priority should be taking care of your children--case closed.
17 Have Potential Sitters Visit Your Home
Once you have found someone that you like and who is interested in babysitting, have them (along with one of their parents) visit you and your children in your home for a brief visit. You can take this time to ask specific questions about their experience and expectations while also filling them in on your requirements. Draw up a list beforehand so you don’t forget to mention any crucial information.
At this time, you can also provide them with a complete house tour and ask your children to show the sitter their bedroom. This will give your child a few minutes with the sitter to conduct their own little interview.
16 Let a Conversation Help You Determine Who is Suitable
Age doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with whether a teenager is responsible and mature. You can better gauge their personality once you have a conversation with them. Ask potential babysitters questions about their schooling and interests and give them a chance to answer you. Find out why they are interested in babysitting. Their answer to this question will be extremely telling. Don’t be afraid to ask likely babysitters scenario-based questions such as, "What would you do if my baby suddenly seemed very sick and you couldn’t get a hold of me by phone?" How a sitter handles answering unexpected questions on the fly will show you how they would deal with any unforeseen emergencies.
15 Ask Candidates to Complete a Babysitting Course
Most areas offer day-long babysitting courses to interested tweens and teens on PD days or over school breaks. During this training, applicants learn basic first-aid and safety procedures as well as how to conduct themselves within the role of babysitter. If your potential sitter has completed a babysitting course, you will know how serious they are about babysitting.
14 Ensure Your Sitter and Children Have Good Chemistry
Even if a potential sitter looks good on paper, seems responsible and is properly trained, there’s no point in moving forward if your kids don’t enjoy being around them. This is why a brief home-visit is important before you actually hire a sitter. If your kids aren’t having fun while you are out, it won’t be as easy for you to enjoy yourself either.
13 Request References
If you are hiring a teenaged babysitter, they may not have any professional references as of yet. But that shouldn’t stop you from asking them for names and numbers of a few adults (other than their parents) who know them and will vouch for them being responsible individuals. If your candidates are caught off guard by your request and aren’t sure who to ask, you can suggest they talk to other people they had babysat for in the past, any adults who know them personally (such as friends of their parents or parents of their friends) or a teacher at school.
12 Be Clear About What the Job Entails
If you expect some light housekeeping to be completed alongside the babysitting services, then say so. If you need a sitter who can regularly feed your children, drive them somewhere or administer medication, you will need to be clear on these duties before hiring them as well. Keep in mind that anything beyond simply watching and entertaining your children may be too much for an inexperienced teenager to handle.
11 Go over Your Routines
Just because you know that when you say bedtime, you are referring to the process of getting your kids upstairs, into PJs, teeth brushed, story read and then tucked in. Don’t take for granted that a teen babysitter will know all this. Be clear with all your routines so your sitter knows how much time they typically take and all the steps involved. Be specific about meal time as well; once finished eating, do the kids get dessert, TV time? Do they help clean up?
Don’t expect your children to be forthcoming about daily routines, especially if they aren’t crazy about them!
10 Save High-Risk Activities for When You Are Around
Especially if you are hiring a teenager to care for your children, save any high-risk activities for when you and/or your partner are around. That means no swimming. You may even want to consider your little one skipping a bath the night they have a sitter watching them.
9 Have a Conversation About Discipline
Outline clear instructions for your sitter to follow in case your child misbehaves. The best option may be to have your sitter fill you in on any misbehavior so you can deal with it on your own. However, especially where babies and toddlers are concerned, you may require your sitter to implement a time-out when necessary. If this is the case, clearly explain what particular behavior requires a time-out and outline the steps that should be taken to enforce it.
If your child is prone to tantrums, you may need to prepare your teen sitter. If they’ve never seen a tantrum before, it could cause them some concern. Also, provide them with strategies on how best to deal with tantrums, such as simply ignoring it or attempting to distract your child.
Whatever the case, you definitely should not provide your babysitter with permission to spank your child, even if that’s what you do at home. Be clear about this.
8 Provide Your Sitter with a List of House Rules
Don’t expect your sitter to use common sense when it comes to what your kids can have to eat and drink as snacks or what time is an appropriate bedtime. They won’t necessarily have the same level of common sense that most parents do.
All house rules should come from you directly to your sitter, not from your children. Teenagers may not have the wherewithal to know when they are being deliberately mislead or flat-out lied to like seasoned parents would. So, if you have clear rules about your kids using the internet or watching TV, these are important things you need to spell out for your sitter beforehand.
Print out a list of house rules and keep it handy for your sitters so they can reference it whenever necessary. They will be grateful--although your kids probably won’t be!
7 Be Clear About Rules and Expectations You Have for Your Sitter
Don’t be afraid to discuss what is and isn’t okay in terms of your sitter’s behavior. Different individuals will have varying ideas of appropriate behavior which is why it’s good practice to openly talk about it rather than assume a sitter can read your mind. For example, think about your stance regarding cell phone usage, having friends over, smoking, and falling asleep after your kids are tucked in.
6 Print out a Contact List
Prepare for the worst and hope for the best; wise words. Keep these words in mind when preparing to have a sitter watch your kids. Put together a contact list of any and all important numbers that your babysitter may require if everything that can possibly go wrong does.
Include not only your cell number but that of your partner, other family members, a trusted neighbor, close friends, your child’s pediatrician as well as poison control in your area.
5 Provide a List of Fun and Appropriate Activities
Until your babysitter gets to know your kids and what they most enjoy doing in their downtime, it may save a lot of trouble if you provide them with a list of suggested activities. If you live close to a neighborhood park or your kids have been looking forward to jumping in the sprinkler, let the sitter know. It won’t hurt for you to let them know which games, toys, and books are your kids favorites either.
4 Check in During Your Absence
Whether it’s for your peace of mind or the sitter’s, let them know when to expect you to check in with a quick phone call or text. This will reassure your babysitter in case they encounter any minor snags before you are due back home. And once you know that everything is fine on the home front, you can get back to enjoying your child-free time.
3 Talk to Your Kids After the Fact
If your kids are old enough to effectively communicate with you, definitely talk to them after they have spent some time with your babysitter. Ask them about what they did and if they had fun. Based on your conversation, you will get a better sense of how your sitter is doing, and whether your kids will look forward to being babysat again in the near future.
2 Trust Your Gut
Above all else, always trust your initial gut reaction. A sitter may fit every one of your criteria, and appear responsible and mature, but if something doesn’t sit right with you, continue your quest to find the perfect sitter. If you can’t relax and enjoy yourself when you have hired a babysitter to take care of your kids, you are defeating the purpose of hiring a sitter in the first place.
1 When You Find a Good One, Treat Them Right
Once you are immersed in the babysitting hiring game, you will inevitably discover that finding the perfect sitter is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. So, when you do find that ideal sitter, show them how much you appreciate their services. Pay them well, give them plenty of advance warning (or pay extra when they come through for you in a pinch), treat them respectfully and provide them with a holiday bonus. After all, they are taking care of your most prized possessions.
And because a good babysitter is hard to find, there is plenty of competition out there. Make it easy for yourself by treating your preferred sitter they way you’d want your own children to be treated. That way, if they ever get double booked in the future, your family will be their number one choice.