Finding a babysitter through a childcare/nanny agency can be a good idea because the agency should do basic reference and police checks. A babysitter should be at least 14 years of age. However note that:
- A young child can find it stressful to be left with a complete stranger and be asked to trust that person.
- An absence of a previous criminal history should not be regarded as a guarantee that the babysitter is a safe person to be with your child.
A sleep-over at the house of family relatives or grandparents is a popular and no-cost option for many families but also consider and watch for any risks.
For a safe babysitting arrangement here are 4 tips
- Teach your child that certain parts of his/her body are private, and what to do and how to say ‘NO’ if someone tries to touch them in bad ways.
- Check with your child before leaving if he/she is pleased to be with the babysitter, family friend or relative. Trust your child’s instincts. Never force your child to stay with someone he/she does not like.
- Reduce opportunities for abuse. For example, have your child already bathed and changed in pyjamas before dropping off to a friend’s house for a sleep-over or before the babysitter arrives. Tell the babysitter not to put your child to bed but to let your child stay up and snooze on the couch (or bassinet if a baby, or on a made-up bed on the floor if your child could roll off the couch) until you arrive home. Also instruct the babysitter not to discipline your child but to phone you if there is any problem.
- Discuss with your babysitter what to do if you do not arrive home as planned and give emergency contact numbers.
Before leaving your child with a babysitter invite the babysitter to visit so that your child and the sitter can get to know each other.
Give them space to interact and play together. Watch and see how well they get along. Note if the babysitter has good supervision skills and (at least basic) childcare skills.