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Using Family Members and Friends as Babysitters

There are advantages and disadvantages to using family members and friends as babysitters.  Each situation is unique and must be evaluated individually.  Below are the advantages and disadvantages that you should consider when deciding whether to use family members and friends as babysitters.

Advantages

  • No need to spend time interviewing babysitting candidates
  • No need to spend time and money performing background checks on babysitting candidates
  • No worries about whether a trusting bond can be established between your children and their new babysitter
  • No worries about continuity of care as family members and friends are likely to be a consistent influence in the lives of your children (As a result of this continuity of care, your children won’t have the separation grief and anxiety that occurs each time a babysitter resigns.)
  • Lower cost (Usually family members and friends will charge less than the market rate in your area, some family members and friends will babysit for free, and some family members and friends participate in an exchange of “sitter services” in which they take turns watching each other’s children.)

Disadvantages

  • Increased likelihood that the babysitter will have insufficient training in childcare, CPR, first aid, etc. (Prior childrearing experience, by itself, does not establish someone as able to handle childrearing successfully.)
  • Difficulty maintaining boundaries and balance of power between parents and babysitter (Parents should be able to tell the babysitter what the parental expectations are and trust that the babysitter will meet those expectations, but pre-established family or friendship relationships may alter that. For example, the grandparent/babysitter may think he/she knows better about how to raise children and may thus ignore the wishes of the parents. Also, some family members and friends may think nothing of ignoring parental boundaries on occasion, where a traditional employee babysitter would be less likely to do so. Finally, parents too are more likely to cross boundaries when the babysitter is a family member or friend: parents are more likely to impose on babysitter by asking for sitting services with little notice, etc.)
  • Gossip within the family or social circle may become an issue if the babysitter shares things happening in (or overheard in) your home with other family members or friends
  • Increased difficulty in redirecting babysitter’s behaviors and ending the babysitting arrangement if the arrangement isn’t working out (Both redirecting the babysitter’s behaviors and ending the babysitting arrangement may create family and social circle complications.)

Whoever you choose to hire as a babysitter for your children, ensure that he/she is a person that you can trust to do the job well, will honor your boundaries, and will respond well to feedback that you provide to him/her about the care of your children.  Communicate your expectations clearly at the beginning of and throughout the babysitting arrangement .  All the things you should do to facilitate a positive working relationship with your babysitter should be true whether your babysitter is a family member or friend or was unknown to you prior to your recruiting for babysitter candidates.

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