Being a caregiver to a child is so rewarding, but we all need a break sometimes to recharge or catch up on our to-do list. Hiring a babysitter—whether a family member, friend, neighbor, or community member—is a great way to ensure your child is cared for while you’re out. By preparing your child for a babysitter, you can make the hand-off smooth and worry-free.
Hiring a babysitter isn’t only beneficial for caregivers, but it can be a great experience for children too. It gives children the chance to build a relationship with a different adult, which can help with their social and emotional development. They might learn new games or skills from their babysitter. Also, getting one-on-one attention from a caring adult can help boost children’s self-esteem and confidence.
However, leaving children with a babysitter can feel stressful for many caregivers, especially if children cry or throw tantrums when the time comes for a babysitter to watch them. The following steps can help prepare you and your child for a positive babysitting adventure.
Tell your child about the babysitter ahead of time, and give them lots of time to get used to the idea. If possible, see if you can arrange a quick playdate with the babysitter ahead of time to introduce your child and help them get comfortable around the new person. During this time, you can talk your child through what to expect when they meet the babysitter next time. In the days leading up to staying with the babysitter, it can be helpful to remind your child that they will be playing with their babysitter soon. By meeting the babysitter and reminding your child often that they’ll be spending time with them, you’re ensuring that there are no surprises when the big day comes. Children are more likely to throw a tantrum when they feel out of control or when they don’t know what’s going on.
Get your child excited to spend time with their babysitter. In an upbeat voice, talk about how much fun they’ll have when they get to play with their babysitter. When your child is playing a game they love, you can suggest that they show their babysitter how to play next time they’re together. Some parents like to set aside a special game or fun new activity for their child to enjoy with the babysitter to increase the excitement for the big day.
Ask for your child’s opinion on simple things like what toys they might want to play with or what they might want to eat for dinner that night. Toddlers and preschoolers love to feel in control. Letting your child make simple decisions can help ease their worries by giving them a better idea of what to expect and removing their fears of the unknown.
If your babysitter comes to your home, encourage your child to show them around and introduce them to their favorite toys. This can help children feel in control and start bonding with their babysitter right away. If you drop your child off at the babysitter’s home, try to pack a bag with familiar items, such as the blanket they sleep with, books they like to read, favorite stuffed animals, or other important items. Your child can show the babysitter what they brought with them, which can help them feel more comfortable knowing they’re surrounded by some of their favorite things.
If your child shows signs of feeling nervous or anxious when you start to leave, you can let them know that it’s OK to feel that way. This is a great time to reassure them that they will be safe and loved while they’re with their babysitter. And before they know it, you’ll be back! If they want to know how long you’ll be gone, you can try using terms that they understand like, “I’ll be gone as long as it takes to watch your favorite TV show two times.” Or you can try setting a timer that counts down to when you’ll be back. Just make sure that you give yourself plenty of time so that you make it there when the timer goes off.