You're thrilled to finally have an evening out, but finding a babysitter you can trust can be a concern for many parents - here's what you need to consider.
Finding someone suitable
There are no specific regulations about babysitters, so it is the parents' responsibility to choose someone suitable.
If you know that you have an evening out planned, start looking for a babysitter as soon as you can. If you leave it too late, you may not be as fussy about their credentials as you should be.
Ask friends, family and colleagues if they can recommend any babysitters that they regularly use - you'll know that they are trustworthy and good with children.
Try using an agency but check how they vet their employees.
Advertise in a local college that teaches childcare courses.
Remember the NSPCC recommends that you don't leave children with babysitters under the age of 16.
Follow your instincts. Don't use them if you have doubts.
Ask for at least two references and follow up with the referees yourself
Once you've found a potential babysitter, invite them round so that you can learn more about them. Ask them how long they've been babysitting; what age groups they've worked with; whether they know any first aid and also what hours they are happy to work.
Ask them how they would cope with an emergency, illness or a child behaving badly. Look for answers that show calm, clear thinking. You need to know that a babysitter will not panic or lose their temper in this kind of situation.
Always allow your children to meet the babysitter before they are left alone together. Observe how the babysitter interacts with your children - they should give them plenty of attention, use a gentle tone of voice, show concern for their safety and wellbeing and keep calm and patient with them.
If you do not know the babysitter, ensure you get two character references and always follow them up. If you can contact other parents who have used them as a babysitter, find out whether they were reliable, trustworthy, responsible and competent.
Go over any house rules you have - are you happy for them to bring friends over? If over 18, can they drink alcohol in the house? Make it clear if you want your children to be in bed by a certain time and go through any safety rules or procedures that you want followed.
Before you leave
Ask the babysitter to arrive 15 minutes before you're due to leave so that you can go through vital information such as where you are going and how you can be reached, any rules for the evening, where anything they may need can be found and contact details for a neighbour or friend in case of any problems.
Make sure they know the address of your house in case of an emergency.
Agree a fee with them in advance.
After you return
Talk to the babysitter about how they found the experience - whether they encountered any problems, weren't sure of anything, and how they got on with your children.
The following day, talk to your children about the new babysitter - what they liked, if there was anything they didn't like, whether they would be happy to be looked after by them again.
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