How many babysitters will the average kid have in their lifetime? It’s likely over a dozen. Life happens and it brings different people into our circles at different times—which includes sitters.
If you ask most parents, almost all will say they’re interested in hearing about a new, good sitter. That’s because in the back of our mind we know it’s an impermanent role. (Note: permanence doesn’t equal importance.) Schedules change, locations change, priorities change. It’s good to have a strong list of sitters you can call.
That said, our little ones crave stability. It’s important to take time and to properly introduce any new person into their life, even if it’s just for a single night out.
Get to Know the Babysitter
The best way to help break the ice between your little ones and the new sitter is to break the ice between the two of you beforehand. Schedule interviews over the phone or in-person. Don’t rush these. Yes, it’s time for you to make sure they’re qualified, but it’s also time to build a rapport with the person that’ll be taking care of your child. Building your own relationship with the sitter will make it easier for you to introduce them to potentially nervous little ones.
Talk About the New Sitter During Dinner
Adults like to have information on any new people we’re about to spend time with. Kids are no different. Before the scheduled sitting, talk about the sitter with your little one. Share their name, what they’re like, and other tidbits you learned during your interviews. Then spend some time talking about things they might like to do together.
Build-in Time For Walk-Throughs
On the day of the sitting, make sure you build-in time to walk-through the routines and any extra details that’ll be helpful (where the games are, kid-friendly snacks, art supplies, etc.). Don’t ask a new babysitter to arrive the moment you need to be walking out the door. That timing stress affects everyone involved. For first sittings, plan to spend up to 30 mins getting everyone introduced. You can even get the kids involved. Sometimes, a task (like showing the sitter where the games are) will help break the ice with a new person.
Don’t Draw Out the Goodbyes
Once the new sitter is settled into the house, don’t prolong the goodbyes. At this point, you’ve done the work to make sure you and the sitter are comfortable and set to move on. Nothing throws a wrench in that work like long, belabored goodbyes. If it’s the first time you’re leaving a little one with a new sitter, this might be the hardest part, but it’s important to keep it brief. A quick, confident goodbye sends signals that everything is, and will be ok.
Have Things They Love Handy
Setting things and activities your kids love out will help make the goodbyes quick. For babies, that’s lovies and pacifiers. For toddlers and older kids, it’s the activities they love to do, but don’t always get the chance to do. Think about some of the things that need supervision. i.e. science experiments, play dough, games, etc.
When a sitter is new, it’s good for you to take some extra steps to help them build a bond with your kids and guide them toward things they’ll like to do together. A good sitter will start to learn and plan fun activities on their own, but that takes time and knowing who you’re planning for.
Overall, transitioning to a new sitter smoothly just takes a little planning and forward-thinking. It starts with opening up the lines of communication and talking to multiple sitters to find the one that fits your family best.