Children have various “special needs” that as parents we learn to meet. The special needs may range from life-threatening food intolerances and allergies, to non-life threatening “routines” gets them to bed at night, or normal activities that the individual child can only take in small doses.
When leaving a child with a babysitter the time comes to take stock of these “special needs”, list them and communicate them effectively to the babysitter. Babysitters do not necessarily have qualifications in child care and it can be even more important to communicate those special needs that the child has.
1. List the needs. It is a good idea to write a list of the needs that a child has, starting with the most important allergies, intolerances and medical conditions that they have. And working down to those needs that are more “preferences” about what the child likes, what makes caring for them easier, or just what we – as parents – require happens. This list will help you prioritize and communicate to the babysitter all those things that need to be considered.
2. Highlight any life-threatening needs to the babysitter. Any special needs that the child has which will impact their health or life need to be communicated to the babysitter. These special needs need to be constantly in the babysitters mind and it is a good idea to make sure that these needs are highlighted and underlined to the babysitter. Give the babysitter an information sheet about the need and put reminders about the house (for example, “no nuts”). Repeat this need again and again so that it gets through to the babysitter.
3. Train them what to do in an emergency. Highlighting the child’s special need to the babysitter should include what to do if there is a problem. There may be some immediate first aid that they need to give or medicine they must know how to find and how to use, as well as knowing how to contact yourself or emergency services. Make them repeat back to you what to do in an emergency and go through the steps they need to take.
4. Make sure they know which child has the need. If the babysitter is caring for more than one child, is not familiar with the children, or the children are twins or might be easily confused make sure that the babysitter can identify which child has the special need. For very young children, or twins, it is a good idea to put on a bracelet that cannot be removed, as well as making sure the child is wearing a distinctive color that makes them easy to spot in an emergency. While clothing can be changed the bracelet, or other mark, should be permanent and help the babysitter in an emergency identify the child.
5. Start small. If you have the luxury of knowing you will get the same babysitter again and again you might start with having the babysitter care for the child when you are about, before leaving them. This will give you a chance to teach the babysitter about the most important special needs and make sure they are able to manage the need.
6. Build on other needs gradually. Having taught the babysitter about those life threatening special needs the child has build on other special needs gradually – like bed time rituals, requirements about washing, applying creams or lotions and other.While these are important – and perhaps unusual requirements the child has – they are not life threatening so do not confuse the baby sitter by too many “non-essential” details. By all means write a list and leave it with them, but do not expect a causal sitter to necessarily remember everything, instead focus on the most important needs.
Seek a regular babysitter. When searching for a babysitter remember that it helps to have one or two babysitters who are regulars and who can learn what to do building on their knowledge over time.