The energy in your house is that of a boiling pot or hotter. You’ve checked, and in-home child care is considered essential in your state. You’ve discussed it with your partner and you’ve considered the health and safety of bringing a babysitter into your home. You’ve posted a job, interviewed, and hired the child care lifeline you’ve been dreaming about for weeks. The anticipation of their arrival feels like a kid waiting for Christmas, but what can you do to make sure everything goes smoothly?
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. Don’t rush your phone or video chat interviews. 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 As A Family
Adults like to have information on any new people we’re about to spend time with. Kids are no different.
Get Them Excited
Before the first 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.
By now, your family has discussed the virus and updated hygiene practices to keep everyone in the house healthy and safe. Review these practices with the family as well as any additional ones that are specific to the new sitter. This will help everyone be on the same page as well as calm any fears that may be bubbling up. Make sure that the sitter knows these practices before they arrive on their first day.
When the Sitter Arrives
Introduce Them to the Kids, House, and Hygiene Practices
On the day of the first sitting, make sure you build in time to formally introduce them to the kids and show them around the house. You can even have the kids help them with this as a way to break the ice. Don’t ask a new babysitter to arrive the moment you need to be logging into a meeting or walking out the door. That timing stress affects everyone involved.
You’ve probably set up a system for you and your family members to sanitize yourself and items every time you re-enter the house after being in public. Consider how this will work for your sitter every time they come to the house. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Set up a station at the front door with disinfectant wipes, spray, and hand sanitizer.
- Everyone that enters/re-enters the home needs to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before doing anything else. Even if it’s a short walk around the block, wash your hands every time you re-enter your home.
- Provide wipes to the sitter to wipe down the steering wheel and handles of their car and cell phone.
- Keeping the shoes and purses at the front door is probably a good idea. They’re items that get regularly touched.
Talk About the Day
It’s a great idea to give a rundown of what the day might look like for you—whether you’re working from home or out of the house. When they’re aware of your schedule, they can plan theirs with the kids accordingly. This can include:
- What kind of work do you need to get done? (Meetings at specific times, uninterrupted time to focus on work, household tasks, errands, etc.)
- What room(s) you need just for yourself? What rooms can be shared?
- If you’ll all be having lunch together, or to plan on doing this separately.
- If there’s anything specific that the kids need to get accomplished today, school-related or not.
- Is there an outdoor space that’s safe to play in?
- Are there any activities that are off-limits due to noise/distraction?
- How the kids have been doing mentally/emotionally lately so that you can help manage stress levels and reactions to situations properly.
Set Ground Rules
If you’re at home while the sitter is with the kids, oftentimes the kids will want to seek help from you over the sitter. It’s natural for this to happen, as your kids see you as the ultimate authority. However, when both authority figures are around, it’s important to set clear expectations on who’s in charge and who’s to take the lead on specific things.
Have an initial discussion with the sitter about this to make sure you’re both on the same page. Speak directly to your kids about what’s decided while the sitter is present. That way, there’s no room for confusion or information manipulation.
Topics to cover could be:
- Activities and rooms that are off-limits
- Food available for lunchtime or snacks
- Chores that need to be done
- Homework that needs to be completed
- When/why you can be interrupted
- Behavior-related challenges
Don’t Draw Out the Goodbyes
Once the new sitter is settled into the house, don’t prolong the transition into the sitter being “in charge.” 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 out your kids love 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.