The babysitter in your home: routines, rules and behaviour
Your babysitter and your child both need to know how you want things done when you’re out.
Rules and routines for your child
- Explain your child’s meal, rest and bedtime routines. Out of your child’s hearing, you can also explain flexibility. For example, ‘Casey usually goes to sleep after one story, but it’s fine if she needs extra stories or a chat tonight’.
- Explain how you usually guide your child’s behaviour and what to do if your child gets upset or wakes up after going to sleep.
- Explain the house rules that apply to your child – for example, where they can eat, or how much screen time they can have.
Rules and expectations for the babysitter
- Explain rules you’d like the babysitter to follow, like no eating on the lounge.
- Outline any extra things you’d like the babysitter to do, like preparing food or stacking the dishwasher after your child’s meal. Also explain anything you don’t want the babysitter to do, like bathing your child or going out in the car. Just make sure your expectations are realistic.
- Explain your priorities. For example, ‘If you need to spend more time settling the baby, it’s OK if there’s a bit of a mess in the house’.
- Be clear about what you want to be contacted about – for example, ‘Please call me if Abdul is still upset in an hour’ or ‘Please call me if there’s an emergency. Otherwise I trust you to work things out’.
Not sure how to find the right babysitter for your family? You can start by asking other parents if they have any recommendations.
Safety for the babysitter and your children
Tell the babysitter where you’re going and when you’ll be back, and clearly display:
- mobile phone numbers for you and your partner, if you have one
- the number of another trusted adult in case the babysitter can’t reach you
- the 000 number
- phone numbers for your GP and poisons information.
- Give the babysitter information about any medical issues – for example, food allergies, food intolerances or asthma.
- Ensure the babysitter is OK to give any medicine your child needs. The sitter also needs to be comfortable with your child’s allergy or asthma plans.
- Show the babysitter where you keep your first aid kit, fire extinguisher or fire blankets.
- Explain bath safety, especially safe water temperature and the need for constant supervision.
- Make sure the babysitter knows about safe sleeping.
- Explain that the babysitter should supervise your child in the kitchen, and while your child is eating.
- Make sure the babysitter knows to keep hot drinks out of reach of your child.
- Show the babysitter how to use the oven or stove top safely.
- Show the babysitter how to open and use your pram.
- If driving your child is allowed, ensure the babysitter follows your rules about car safety.
- Ensure the babysitter knows how to correctly use the child car seat.
- If the babysitter is using their own car, check there’s a suitable car seat for your child.
- Tell the babysitter that it isn’t OK for them to have visitors at your house. For example, it isn’t OK for their boyfriend or girlfriend to visit.
- Tell the babysitter about any visitors you’re expecting. For example, ‘The children’s aunty said she might drop back the lawnmower at about 5.30pm, but she won’t stay’.
- Tell the babysitter what to do if unexpected visitors arrive. For example, ‘If anyone else knocks, don’t feel you have to answer the door. They can come back later’.
Second-hand and third-hand smoke is harmful for children so it’s best to consider a non-smoking babysitter. Also, make it clear that no alcohol or other drugs are allowed while the babysitter is looking after your child.
Preparing your child for babysitting
Even children who are used to spending time away from you can make a fuss if you’re going out and leaving them with a babysitter. Try these tips:
- Organise for your child to meet the babysitter ahead of time, if possible.
- On the day the babysitter is coming, let your child know that someone else will be looking after them, and for how long.
- Ask the babysitter to arrive half an hour early to allow for a calm transition. Let them know that they’ll be paid for this time.
- Prepare some special activities, or let your child stay up a little later than usual. This can make the event something your child can look forward to.
- Give your child something special or important to show. Showing the babysitter a doll, a drawing or a favourite photograph can ease the first few moments.
- Let your child play host. For example, your child could show the babysitter how to work the TV, or even explain some house rules, if your child is old enough.
- Let your child know when you’ll be home. It can be reassuring if you say you’ll come in for a kiss goodnight, even if they’ll be asleep by then.
- Always say goodbye to your child and then leave promptly. This will make it easier for your child to settle down with the babysitter.
Making the babysitter comfortable
Take a bit of time before you leave to take care of your babysitter’s needs while they’re in your house:
- Show the babysitter around the house. Explain door locks, light switches, heating and cooling systems.
- Leave out a blanket, pillow and snacks for the sitter, as well as instructions for the microwave, TV and so on.
When you get home: reviewing the babysitting experience
It’s a good idea to talk with the babysitter about how things went with your child. For example, you could ask about:
- what went well and what was challenging
- what your child enjoyed most
- what the babysitter would like more information about.
It’s important to praise anything the babysitter did well, like tidying up or drawing with your child.
If your child is old enough, ask your child the next day what they enjoyed doing with the babysitter. What was fun about having them here? What was difficult about having them here? This helps you understand what your child needs from their babysitter.