Congrats! You’ve hired a new babysitter. You feel like you’ve won the lottery, and you’re already dreaming of future date nights. You’re nervous about walking out the door that first time and leaving the sitter in charge, but you know she’s bright, fun, and more than capable.
Your kids might not be so sure, though. If you’re anything like me, it can be easy to focus on emergency numbers and pantry items and forget to take time to get the kiddos settled with the new face in the house. My preschool-aged son usually loves to welcome new “friends” to our home, but my 9-month-old daughter is a tougher sell.
I think it’s important to ease deliberately into a relationship with a new babysitter or nanny. Here are some tips that I’ve found make the transition as smooth as possible:
Make introductions before the job
I schedule time for my sitter and children to meet before the job, as part of a working interview. This provides more intimate getting-to-know-each-other time in my home with me close at hand. It’s also an excellent way to acclimate the sitter to my home, pets (in my case, goldfish and caterpillars) and parenting style.
Give kids plenty of notice
It’s not fair to spring a new babysitter on a child, nor to the sitter, who may be left with a sobbing, distraught little one. I let my son know when a new caregiver will be coming by marking it on a visible family calendar on the fridge and casually reminding him that a new friend is coming. I also schedule the sitter to arrive with plenty of time for acclimation before I actually need to leave the house.
Get the kids involved
Kids love to be involved in decision-making. Before hiring a new sitter, we talk about the qualities of a great babysitter—“nice,” “pretty hair” and “fun with cars” is the job description in my house. My 3.5-year-old son also loves watching sitter videos on UrbanSitter and I try to let him pick which famous sitter will ring the doorbell next.
Put the kids in charge
I find that if I put my child in charge of helping and teaching the sitter everything she needs to know when she arrives, he’s so busy making her feel at home that he may not notice his own apprehension.
Have an itinerary
To help my kids (and the sitter) feel in the know, I make a list of the day’s activities: lunch, coloring/crafts, walk to the park, stop for ice cream, and finally “Mommy/Daddy comes home.” Having something written down (preferably in my own handwriting) can create a sense of calm for an unsure child.
Bend the rules
I always give a sitter a little leeway to break the house rules. This sets her up to be the fun one who lets the kids get away with things I normally don’t, and creates an association between having a babysitter and getting some special perks! Dessert after lunch? A little playtime after dinner? Extra books at bedtime? Chances are, the sitter will love you for it, too. Just make sure she knows the real house rules!
Remember, when a new caregiver is hired, everyone might be a little apprehensive. Do what you can to ease the transition by starting the process before the job begins. Hopefully, that babysitter will become an indispensable part of your lives and, with any luck, your kiddo will be begging you to go out!