Ask the Experts: Finding a Sitter




We asked local experts to weigh in on their top questions to ask a potential sitter.

To find more answers to other common parenting questions, check out our collection of Ask the Experts.


Sunshine Cowan: Finding the right sitter for your children is a wonderful thing. As a new mom, I not only felt the need to find the right fit for my children, but I recognized that I needed to find the right fit for me.

For an individual who will be babysitting your children for short durations of time, you likely want to discuss their prior experience and be able to speak to their references; determine if their views on child behavior and discipline are a good match with yours; discuss your family’s values, issues of safety and other items of importance to you. For me personally, once I had peace of mind about matters connected to safety and values, I was able to focus on other issues like ability to plan and have fun with my children.

When finding a caregiver for my infants when I was at work, it was critical for me to feel at ease knowing my children were well cared for, so that I could focus on my daily work without worry. Interviewing a daily caregiver often includes a conversation about how that person disciplines; who else will be in the home while your children are present; how meals, play time and daily activities are structured; and how their values and ideas may both overlap and differ from your family. Beyond these initial suggestions, I also want to have a relationship with anyone caring for my children that allows for respectful, open feedback and the ability to address any issues or concerns on either side.

In finding childcare, Oklahoma has an excellent resource called Rainbow Fleet. Rainbow Fleet is a database that allows you to input your needs (e.g. days, times, region of the metro), desired type (family or large facility) and size of childcare, and star level of the childcare you seek.

Dr. Sunshine Cowan is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Central Oklahoma where she coordinates the Community/Public Health program. Although she teaches many courses in her role with the university, one of her favorites is a course on human development. Sunshine has been married to the love of her life, Jerel Cowan, for more than 20 years; together they have two children, Canyon and Ponder.


Dr. Kelly Stephens: The most important question to ask a potential babysitter is if they have attended babysitting training classes and learned CPR. Once you have determined that, here are some other important things to consider:

  • If the sitter is a teenager, do their parents live nearby?
  • Is the sitter willing to not use their phone except in the case of an emergency or to correspond with the child’s parents?

It’s best to have someone you know or someone with an excellent reference from a trusted friend. The first time you try a new babysitter, take a short outing to see how your child reacts to them and if they follow your instructions.

Dr. Kelly Stephens, III has been practicing for 30 years and specializes in pediatrics at Mercy Clinic Primary Care I-35 Edmond.  He says, “seeing kids grow up and overcome problems, while watching parents get more adept at handling their little bundles of joy, these are the true rewards of my calling.” Learn more about Dr. Stephens at www.mercy.net/doctor/kelly-stephens-iii-md.


Uganda Richardson – There is nothing easy about leaving a baby with a babysitter. It is normal for parent feel apprehensive, especially since safety is so important. Rainbow Fleet is a non-profit organization that will do some foundational background research for families. They will refer you to licensed centers, family child care homes and more.

But, ultimately, the parent is responsible for evaluating an appropriate babysitter for their little one. When evaluating, consider the environment your baby will be in. I recommend an interactive interview that is informal, relaxing and organic for the babysitter and the parent. Be sure to have structured questions prepared and to look at the natural way the potential sitter interacts with your child and their ability to multi-task, because we all know that it takes this type of skill to take care of a young child.

Here are a few observations to look for:

  • Does the sitter feel comfortable with baby?
  • Does she/he appear able make decisions?
  • Does the person initiate questions and responses for a better understanding of expectations?  

Thai-An Truong: Here are my key questions I always ask perspective caregivers:

  • Experience with kids your child's age?
  • Strengths when dealing with babies/kids?
  • What are your limitations?
  • What will you do when a challenge comes up?
  • Why do you want this position?

Thai-An Truong is a therapist and mother who is passionate about helping pregnant and postpartum parents overcome depression and anxiety so they can feel like themselves again and enjoy life with their baby and family. After overcoming her own battle with postpartum depression and anxiety, she opened Lasting Change Therapy, LLC in South Oklahoma City to dedicate her counseling services to helping families recover. For more information, visit  www.lastingchangetherapy.com

 

To find more answers to other common parenting questions, check out our collection of Ask the Experts.

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