by Rachelle Lipschultz
Sooner or later, we all leave our children with babysitters. Whether it's someone you've known for years or someone you've never met before, it can still be a difficult process. In this month's e-zine, we focus on ways to make this a less stressful experience for all concerned.
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LEAVING CHILDREN WITH A BABYSITTER
by Rachelle Lipschultz
Let your kids get to know the babysitter before you leave them alone. Particularly for younger children, this can help to ease separation anxiety and prevent tantrums. It also allows you to have a better idea of the babysitter’s qualifications and skill level, and gives the babysitter a chance to learn some of the tricks to dealing with your child.
Discipline is most effective when it is consistent. Make sure you are clear in letting the babysitter know what your kids are and are not allowed to do. You can’t cover every possible scenario, but some of the most common ones include
- What foods or snacks are allowed, and how much
- How much time may be spent using the computer/video games/TV
- Where the children may go outside of the house (for example, can they go to the playground?)
- Whether or not the children may have friends over
- What time the children need to be in bed
Perhaps most importantly, make sure your children are in the room when you provide this information. That way they will be less likely to try and get around the rules.
Having said this, you might consider relaxing some rules when babysitters are around. For example, when I was growing up my parents always let us have ice cream for dessert when we had a babysitter—but they made it clear to both us and the sitter that this was contingent on good behavior. We were probably the only kids I knew who begged for babysitters!
All children have their own characteristics and quirks. The more information you provide the babysitter, the better he or she will be able to effectively manage your children’s behavior. Does your son have a special name for his blanket or teddy bear? Does your daughter have a certain routine for bedtime or naptime? The last thing your babysitter needs to deal with is a child who’s become hysterical because the peanut butter and jelly sandwich got cut diagonally rather than lengthwise! One way to prevent a great deal of frustration is to tell the babysitter about a couple of tried-and-true activities that your child consistently enjoys. That way the sitter will always have a fallback suggestion if necessary.
Houses also have quirks. Is that weird sound coming from the toilet a normal one? Is the volume on your TV actually controlled through the stereo system? Providing information such as this can go a long way toward preventing aggravation and frustration on the part of your babysitter.
Provide written information for babysitters. Some information varies each time you go out (such as where you’ll be) but most doesn’t. So the easiest way to do this is write down the information that doesn’t change, photocopy that sheet of paper, and then just write down other information as needed. Here is a list of basic information that you should always leave:
- Parents’ full names
- Where you will be—name, address and phone number
- Children’s names, ages, birth dates, height, weight, hair and eye color (in case children get lost)
- Address of the house and directions (in case it is necessary to give directions to emergency services)
- Phone numbers at the house
- Name and phone of family doctor or pediatrician
- Emergency services number (usually 911)
- Nationwide poison control hotline: 1-800-222-1222
- Location of exits
- Location of first aid supplies, fire extinguisher, flashlights, circuit breakers
- Name and phone for neighbors and for close relatives—include a few, in case some are not at home
- Food and drug allergies, or other medical information (such as asthma)
- Medications—name, time last given, time next dose due, amount to give (dose)
(List adapted from http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/yourchild/babysit.htm)
Be clear about your rules for the babysitter. May she use your phone? Is he allowed to have a friend over after the kids go to sleep? Do you allow smoking in the house? What foods are off-limits?
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