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Choosing the Right Babysitter in a COVID-19 World

By Ethan King, Summer Intern at Alaska Children’s Trust

These days, more and more families are having to seek alternative methods for childcare. With COVID-19 limiting childcare and afterschool programs, and amid concerns of children being exposed to the virus, more families are relying on individuals within their safety bubble to babysit.  

If you are considering hiring a babysitter, here are some basic items to consider to ensure the safety of your children:

  • How old is your child/children? The younger the child, the older and more experienced the babysitter should be.
  • How many children do you have? It is important to consider the number of children an individual will need to supervise. Again, the more children the babysitter needs to care for, the older and more experienced they should be.
  • Does your child have any special needs like medical care or behavioral challenges?
  • What additional duties do you want the babysitter to accomplish, such as preparing meals or helping with schoolwork?
  • What schedule do you want the babysitter to follow while watching your child?
  • What training do you want the babysitter to have, such as CPR/first aid training or Red Cross babysitting course?

The presence of COVID-19 in our communities requires families to consider additional factors to reduce exposure to the virus. For example:

  • Start by exploring options within your existing safety bubble (people who you are already in your social circle).
  • If no one is available in your safety bubble, extend that circle to circles of your friends. They may have connections outside of your safety bubble that could be potential sitters. 
  • When interviewing a potential sitter, it is important to communicate your expectations related to exposure levels and ask about their expectations. Develop an agreed-upon plan for your family and your babysitter with regards to COVID precautions so that everyone is on the same page. Outline expectations related to mask wearing for them and the child, hand washing, and social contact. This will help both your family and your babysitter feel more comfortable sharing space.
  • If the sitter or anyone in your family becomes sick, have a well-established communication plan. Let the sitter know they should not come to work until they receive a negative COVID test result or complete a 14-day quarantine.
  • Prior to the babysitter entering your home, you are encouraged to clean, with a focus on high-touch surfaces like counters, door handles, light switches, etc.  

Families who do not feel comfortable having a babysitter in their home can consider other options for temporary childcare. For example, Zoom is not just for work anymore! It is also being utilized for “electronic babysitting.” Electronic babysitting is usually short term (15 to 30 minutes) and for children of at least preschool age (3+).

During an electronic babysitting session, the child uses Zoom or another video conferencing app to call and interact (i.e. play Simon says or talk about their day) with a babysitter. This is a simple option when you need to make a quick call or need some time to focus on a project without being disturbed. During an electronic babysitting session, it is important that you remain somewhere in the house, in case of emergency. It is also important to consider how your child would handle a 15- to 30-minute video call because only you can determine if they would enjoy or be able act responsibly.

Another option is for your child to go to the sitter’s home. In this case, questions to consider are:

  • Does your babysitter live by themselves or with other people?
  • How comfortable is your babysitter with taking your child into their house?
  • How much will transportation cost?
  • Does the babysitter want to be paid more for having your child at their house?
  • How long would your child spend at the babysitter’s house?
  • Is your babysitter’s home adequately childproofed?
  • What games and activities do they have to entertain your child?

With so many people working from home due to COVID-19, there is an increased need to find balance between work productivity, family time, time for self-care, and time together with your partner. Babysitting can be a safe solution in this era of COVID-19 by asking the right questions, developing solid plans, following health precautions and being open in your communication with your babysitter.

Need more information on babysitting and coronavirus? Continue your research with these additional articles:  

Do you have suggestions of your own for navigating this difficult topic? We’d love to read your ideas and stories. Feel free to comment them below.

Ethan King, author of this blog and summer intern at Alaska Children’s Trust
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