Find a babysitter who will be attentive to your children rather than distracted by her own interests.

Babysitting Questions for Teens

by Rachel Pancare

Allowing someone else to look after your children can be daunting. After all, no one can care for them better than you. Hiring a teenage babysitter may cause greater anxiety than leaving your child with an adult, as teens often have less experience with young children. Asking the right questions when you interview a teen babysitter can help you feel better about leaving your children with someone else when necessary. KidsHealth.org suggests you look for a teen who likes kids and is mature, personable and full of common sense.

1. Ask Personal Questions

Finding a babysitter whose personality is right for you and your children and whose level of ability matches your needs and expectations is the key to feeling relaxed when you are away. The Care.com website recommends asking questions about school, friends and extracurricular activities. The more information you find out about the teen, the easier it will be to determine whether she is the best choice for your children. Searching for the teen on sites such as Twitter and Facebook lets you look for questionable posts or pictures that reveal social behavior you find inappropriate or unsafe. You may also find posts that prove the teen is caring, sympathetic and responsible, and you can discover valuable information about the teen's background and educational experiences. Trusting your babysitter to make smart choices is critical.

2. Ask About Experience

Learning about a teen's babysitting qualifications can help you decide if she is ready to care for your children. Ask how much experience she has with kids. Some teens have short babysitting histories but can be equally as responsible as those who have had more opportunities. Asking a teen to describe her babysitting history can provide important information on how much she understands about children as well as how much instruction may be necessary from you. In the Boston.com article "15 Questions to Ask a New Babysitter," parenting consultant Lylah M. Alphonse suggests asking the ages of children the sitter has worked with. You can also ask her to describe the circumstances under which she was caring for these children. In other words, has she taken care of children in their homes, outside or at her own house? You can find out if she has repeatedly babysat for particular families, which may inform you that other parents had positive experiences.

3. Ask About Safety

Your child's safety is essential. Ask babysitters how they would handle specific situations. For example, ask, "What would you do to ensure my child is safe on the playground?" A good answer might include details about keeping eyes on the child at all times, staying near the child and helping him climb or swing, preventing him from getting hurt by others and making sure he doesn't put anything in his mouth. Ask the teen if she knows what to do in an emergency. Find out if she knows when to call you, an emergency contact, a neighbor or 911, if necessary. You may wish to hire someone with safety training or skills. In this case, you may want to ask if she has taken a CPR class, for example. Find out her knowledge of first aid, such as cleaning cuts, applying adhesive bandages or using ice. Ask questions related to cleanliness to make sure she'll wash her hands and those of your children after playing outside. Safety questions are especially important if you have a child with a disability, allergy or other medical concern.

4. Ask About Entertainment

Some parents worry that teenage babysitters will be more focused on themselves than the children they are watching. For instance, parents may be concerned that the teen will talk on her cell phone rather than play with the children. Ask questions about what kinds of activities she plans for the kids, or simply ask if she'd be willing to play games you have at your house. Let her know about some of the toys your children like to play with and ask her if she would be comfortable playing with them and engaging the kids. There is a difference between active and passive babysitting, and it is essential that you believe your children will be entertained and cared for rather than ignored. If you would like the teen to follow a certain schedule, ask her to review the schedule and discuss how she feels about each of the planned activities.

5. Ask for Questions

While asking a teen babysitter your own questions is key, allowing her time to ask you questions can be helpful or revealing as well. If she asks whether she can use the computer, you gain insight about her plans when you leave the house. She may not know how to do a necessary task such as change a diaper. She might wonder where certain things are kept in your house or if you would like her to follow any discipline rules with your children. She could ask about dietary restrictions or television and technology limitations. If you allow the babysitter a chance to ask you questions, she may cover topics you have forgotten about. Most of all, a babysitter who asks good questions shows she is responsible and wants to do the best job she can.

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