Tips for Working with a Temporary Caregiver

Leaving your child with someone you don’t know isn’t easy for anyone involved: you, your children, or the caregiver who must jump into your established routine. Keep these guidelines and tips in mind to make it easier for everyone.

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Before the Caregiver Comes

  • Your caregiver will call beforehand to introduce herself, review details, and confirm the time, your address, and directions to your house.
  • Tell your caregiver about your children’s temperaments and preferences so she can plan activities that will be most appropriate and fun.
  • If you have a child with food allergies, or have certain household dietary restrictions, and would prefer that the caregiver not bring certain foods into your home, let her know.
  • Prepare the children for the day. Let them know they’ll have fun, and reassure them the caregiver will take care of any situation that might arise. Suggest that they pick a favorite toy or book to show her when she gets there.

When the Caregiver Arrives

  • Warmly introduce the caregiver—if you’re nervous, the children will pick up on it.
  • Review your house rules including naptime, meals and snacks, use of the computer, television, and permissible videos. Do this with the caregiver and the children together so that the ground rules are clearly set.
  • Go over your emergency contact information. Include the number where you and/or your spouse/partner can be reached, the pediatrician’s name and number, and a neighbor or friend to call in case of an emergency.
  • Provide a list of any allergies that the children may have.
  • Tell the caregiver what you planned for the children’s lunch. Also, let her know beforehand whether or not she has permission to eat the food in your home and what’s off limits.
  • Give her suggestions about what will delight, calm and comfort each child.
  • Stay upbeat about the caregiver and what a great day the children will have with her. Experts suggest that the more cheerful and confident you are about leaving, the easier it is for your children. Prolonging your goodbye or otherwise exhibiting nervousness can increase your child’s anxiety. The best goodbye routine is brief: when you’re ready to go, kiss your child, say goodbye cheerfully, leave, and when you’re outside, turn around and wave. Never sneak out! If your toddler is crying when you leave, give the caregiver a call when you arrive at work.
The caregiver is there to keep your children safe and happy, which often requires ongoing toy-pickup, but caregivers do not do housework or run errands.

When You Get Home

  • Many child development experts believe that leaving children to go to work does not disturb them, but a rushed “re-entry” does. They have waited all day to see you, tell you a joke, show you a picture, or simply feel your secure presence. Try not to rush into the house and start your evening routine immediately. If you can, schedule a half hour for calmly regrouping with your children. This also will provide time for the caregiver to “debrief” with you.  You want to know how things went and if there is anything that might affect the evening after she’s gone.
  • If you feel that the caregiver provided excellent care for your children, don’t hesitate to say so. Everyone loves to feel appreciated.  And please let Parents in a Pinch know how you felt about the care when you are contacted for post-care feedback.