Tips On Getting A Responsible Teenage Babysitter

by Michelle Ehrich What do you want to know? Come ask the experts! A selection of answers to your questions will...
by Michelle Ehrich

What do you want to know? Come ask the experts! A selection of answers to your questions will be regularly posted on the site. For instant gratification, click here to see what other questions have already been answered. Something not here that you want to know? Well come on -- ask your question! The question:
We have a 6-month-old baby, and my husband and I feel like we might be ready to go on a "date" alone for a few hours. I know I did a lot of babysitting when I was a teen, but I am still concerned about hiring a teenager to babysit for our son! What should we look for in a teenage babysitter?

The Childcare Expert Answers:

Good for you for wanting some "alone time"! With a little sleuthing, you can certainly find a very good babysitter and enjoy a well-deserved night out with adults only. The qualities to look for in a teenage babysitter are comparable to the fundamental characteristics of all fine caregivers.
  • Likes Kids. First and foremost is to find a babysitter who likes kids. Don't assume that everyone who babysits likes children; lots of teens do it for the money or because there are no other jobs available.
  • Common sense is the next critical element. Don't worry: there are rarely real emergencies while a child is being babysat. However, it is important that the babysitter be able to exercise good judgement on a range of everyday issues such as safety, comforting the crying baby and appropriate types of activities. A related characteristic is responsibility, meaning a caregiver who is trustworthy and knows how to handle childcare matters.
  • Experience. Try to seek out a babysitter who has experience with babies. In my area, many sitters have worked with toddlers and young children of pre-school age. It is less common that a babysitter works with younger children, especially because many parents share your hesitation on using a sitter at this age. By no means does that suggest that you should stay home for the next 52 Saturday nights, in fact, you probably deserve a night out! Still, it is worth looking for someone who is comfortable and experienced with babies. If you can't find this type of sitter, consider "training" the person. Invite the sitter over for two hours (paid, of course) while you are home and let her get to know your child, change a diaper and hold him for a bit. That way, you will be able to assess firsthand if she is up to the task.
  • References. For the first time using a babysitter, it is reasonable to ask for references (if you didn't get the name from other families who have used her and been satisfied). It takes just a few minutes on the phone and can make you feel much better about the sitter's qualifications and capabilities.

Some final advice for your first foray into Parents' Night Out: try to stick close to home, go somewhere that you can easily be reached (or bring your beeper or cell phone) and keep the evening to two hours of so. Prepare yourself for the possibility that your son may not be overjoyed at the thought of you going out without his charming company. That type of crying happens to 99.9% of all parents who try to leave their children with a babysitter for the first time (the other 0.1% sneak out the backdoor) and should not stop you from going out.

Call home fifteen minutes after you have left to find out what happening -- I'd be surprised if he isn't happily engaged in a game with the babysitter while you're still suffering pangs of guilt. That's kids for you! Go and have a great time!

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