May is prime time for situating changing child-care needs for the summer. Looking for a new sitter or nanny? Besides the expected questions about child-care experience, CPR training and conducting a background check, what kinds of questions can give parents a deeper sense about who will watch their children? Here are three unconventional and telling questions to ask:
1) If you could change something about your last job, what would it be? Asking about potentially negative situations gives parents insight about possible stressors should you enlist this person to watch your child. Whether it’s unpredictability of the parent’s schedule, interference of the parents with the children while the nanny is on duty, how the parents communicated with the nanny, the more communication up front, the better. Erin Matzkin, co-founder of WorkKidsWine and the organizational child-care app Sitternote advocates clear communication in the interview itself. “The more clearly you set expectations at the outset, the better the chances of a successful caregiving relationship. [Based on our ongoing experiences] every single person told us that more communication is better. Do not assume your babysitter shares views on screen time or whether a baby should be put to bed sleeping or drowsy. You need to tell her how your family handles these things.” Lindsay Thomasen of The Nanny League also recommends paying keen attention to answers. “Evaluate how they talk about their previous families. Are they providing you with too much information? Breaching anything you would deem ‘confidential’ and off-limits?”
2) Which social media channels do you like the best? Seeing how your potential new sitter’s face lights up or goes blank will give you an immediate sense of their social media regard and usage (is it frequent? nonexistent?), which you can then assess your comfort level with according to how you feel about social media posting with kids involved. This question opens the door to how often they post (will they post pictures of your kids?) and how connected they are to their phone during day (will they be distracted?). Don’t be shy about addressing what is and isn’t OK when it comes to social media use around your children, including screen time.
3) Have you traveled out of the country lately? Not only does this let you get to know your new sitter a bit more, the bigger purpose is that it opens the door to a conversation about health and communicable diseases, some of which are contracted when traveling overseas (ie: Zika virus). Los Angeles family attorney and mom Lisa Pierson Weinberger suggests asking, “Are they willing to provide a doctor’s note saying that they are up to date with vaccinations and able to perform job duties? This fitness for duty certification, getting a letter from a doctor certifying that the individual is capable of being the sole caregiver for a young child, is the best way to go about making sure that there are no relevant health issues without asking about it directly.” Keep the conversation respectful but also have confidence that questions about health must be rationally addressed when caring for young children is in question. Another way of addressing the issue is: “Do you have any health problems I should know about,” (asthma, migraines, seizures) or “Do you smoke?” For infants, don’t be shy asking if caregiver has passed a TB test and received pertussis (whooping cough) immunization.
Tiffanie Kinder, president and founder of Nanny Connections, additionally suggests asking what other job the candidate might be looking for if he/she couldn’t be a nanny or sitter. “Some nannies are nannies because they can’t find jobs in a field they originally intended to work in and they become nannies because they think it is an easy job to fall back on, but not genuinely interested in working with children and families professionally.”
As for meeting and interviewing the neighborhood teenage sitters, ask them how their parents feel about them babysitting, how they get along with any siblings and if they’re familiar with basic first aid or CPR.
Jill Simonian is a Parenting Lifestyle Contributor, appearing on CBS Los Angeles every Wednesday on News at 5pm and Friday mornings at 6:30am. Her personal blog is TheFabMom.com. Follow Jill on Twitter @jillsimonian and connect with her on Facebook.