Guidelines for selecting a babysitter

There is nothing more precious to you than your children and you need to make sure they receive the best possible care in your absence. Unless you have complete confidence in your babysitter, you will always be wondering what goes on when you leave and worry that your preverbal children will not be able to tell you.

Your most reliable source of reference is your social network. Ask your friends and colleagues if they can recommend a babysitter. If your children already go to a childcare centre, some of the professionals there may be able to babysit for you on a casual basis. If you have to resort to employing a complete stranger, ask for references and check them thoroughly.

Next, arrange for a phone interview and ask questions about the candidate’s experience, personality and childcare style. Find out what age groups and temperaments of children they prefer to work with, and why. Ask what they would do in situations that are likely to come up in your household. For example, you can ask how they deal with separation anxiety, what activities they will engage in to occupy your children and how they handle a toddler refusing to go to bed. Ideally, their answers should closely reflect what you would do in the same situation. Do not assume that your babysitter will diligently follow your instructions unless this is how they usually act themselves.

Once you are satisfied with the answers, invite the candidate for a trial run at your home while you are there. You can then ask any further questions you may have and watch how the babysitter interacts with your children. It is desirable that the children warm up to the babysitter, too, especially if you have a baby or a toddler who gets very distressed if they are left in the care of people they dislike.

Choosing a babysitter can be a long and tedious process and you would rather not go through it very often. Select candidates who are likely to be in business for a while and not teenagers who will take off for college in a few months or accept another job as soon as they get a chance.

Finally, do not underestimate your intuition and take heed of the slightest uneasy feeling. Giving a person the benefit of the doubt is great in other situations, but not in this case. You need to make sure that your children are safe and happy and that you keep your peace of mind while you are away from home.