Top 5 Traits to Look for in an After-School Nanny

School supply lists, fall sports schedules, dance studio calendars and piano lesson reminders are slowly starting to fill our inboxes. And that can only mean one thing – summer is coming to an end and (like it or not) the school year and the fall season is beginning soon.

The start of the school year signals new schedules, new routines and new activities. Depending on work schedules or the number of older kids involved in activities, many parents must hire an after-school nanny or sitter to accomplish it all. Perhaps you need a sitter to help watch younger kids a couple nights a week from after school until when you get home. Or maybe you need a nanny to help shuttle older kids to or from after-school activities.

If you think you will need to hire a nanny this fall, now is the time to start looking. Here are a few key attributes to look for in a good after-school nanny who will be able to help you and your family successfully make it through the year.

• Organization. You might need someone who not only can manage schedules of more than one child, but also schedules that may change every day of the week. You want someone who can keep it all straight and do it punctually. And also be willing to multi-task from time to time when schedules change or you have an extra errand for her to help with.

• Flexibility. Let’s face it – as much as we want to be home when we say we will be home, traffic snarls pop-up, long work meetings go longer than expected and appointments get in the way. It’s hard to be home right on time, all the time. You want someone who is flexible enough to stay late on those unexpectedly late nights, or even help out on those random days during the school year when the kids are out of school.

• Ability to drive – safely. Unless you have other arrangements to transport your kids from school, you want a nanny who not only knows how to drive but also is willing to drive your kids in her car. Even if school is only a mile away, you will likely need her to bring your kids home, or maybe even bring them to soccer or piano lessons after school. And you want to know that she will do it safely.

• Smarts. The time period that stretches from after school to dinner is a great time to do homework – school is still fresh in your kids’ minds and they usually aren’t too tired to tackle it. If your nanny will be watching your kids during that time period, you’ll want to make sure she is not only capable of helping them, but also comfortable serving in this role. If your child needs a tutor on a specific subject, such as math, you might try to find a nanny who is particularly adept at math.

• Feels comfortable cooking. Everybody knows how ravenous kids can be after they get out of school. You’ll want a nanny who is knowledgeable about offering healthy snack options and also feels comfortable making them. Depending on how late you typically expect to get home, you might also might try to find someone who can help with dinner preparations, or even feed the kids before you get home.

Every family has different needs and every nanny has different strengths. When we’re pairing a family with a caregiver for an entire year, it’s more important than ever that we match those needs with those strengths as perfectly as possible. While it sometimes takes a while to find that perfect match, the patience is worth it. Because when you find a nanny that matches your needs, your entire school year will go just a little more smoothly.

This blog was originally published August 3 on momaha.com, the Omaha World-Herald’s online community for moms, dads and families.

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5 Easy Ways to Connect with Your Kids

In today’s world of over-scheduled activities and work obligations, do you know who your kids are and what they think about? Here are 5 ideas to ask, listen and learn, so you can connect with your children on a more personal level.

  1. During the drive home or at dinner ask everyone to share something they learned or struggled with during their day.
  2. Visit a local library with your children and ask them to help you choose a book to read together. It should be on a topic that interests them.
  3. Do a one-on-one activity with each child at least once a week. As simple as finding matching socks or pulling pesky weeds, this activity will allow you to work toward a common goal with no winners or losers.
  4. Create a Bizarre jar. Kids are always asking questions that make parents scratch their heads or at the wrong time. So create a Bizarre Jar. When a child asks a bizarre question, ask your kids to write down and add it to the Bizarre Jar. Once a week, pick one out a question and work on the answer together.
  5. Kid’s Chef Night – Set up a restaurant-style buffet meal. Make your kids set out ingredients for a simple “build your own dish.” Little ones will enjoy decorating the table and making special menus for the evening.

Just integrating one or more of these ideas will open your mind and heart to what is truly important to your children. Listening to your child’s day, interests or simply having a goal together will enrich your life today, and also create a lasting connection with your children as they change and grow.

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Details You Might Forget to Tell Your Sitter

Most moms have a lot of information about their kids in their heads. We know what our kids don’t like to eat, what bedtime story might give them bad dreams, and what toy might instigate an argument between siblings.

For the most part, it’s OK if we keep that information, as long as we’re our children’s primary caregiver all the time.

But, if you‘re like most parents, you need time away, even if it’s just for a few hours for errands or an extra special date night. That means someone else will be in charge, and they will be responsible for knowing all of the little details you might be storing in your head.

Before we leave the house, most of us will remember to write down our phone number in case of an emergency, what your kids might like for dinner and what time they should go to bed. But here are a few extra things you might overlook that might be helpful for your sitter to have before she’s on the clock.

  • The bedtime routine. You might remember to share the time your son should go to bed, but it also might be helpful to share other details that will improve the odds that he will have a good night’s sleep. Perhaps the night light needs to be turned on in his room, he needs to have a glass of water before bed, or he likes to have a certain book read to him before he can sleep soundly.
  • All about the pets. Anyone who has pets knows that they can be as much work as kids, especially if your sitter doesn’t know anything about them. Let your sitter know any details about your pets that might be helpful, including when or how often to let your dog out, whether your cat is allowed to sit on the furniture, or if your dog is allowed to eat food scraps from the table.
  • The spare key. If your kids are planning to go outside or to the park when you’re away, make sure you let your sitter know the location of your spare key or garage door code. Chances are she will remember to take the key with her, so you can be sure she and your kids won’t be locked out when it’s time to go back inside.
  • Frequently used household items. Think of household items you use on a regular basis and show her where they are, so she doesn’t have to search high and low when she needs them. Items like the First Aid kit, extra paper towels, Clorox, the vacuum cleaner or dishwashing soap might not be in plain sight. They might come in handy depending on what the day brings.
  • The Rules. Perhaps your kids already know they have to finish their dinner before they can have dessert, or that they can only have a certain amount of screen time before bed. Your kids might be inclined to keep these established rules without you there. But just in case they’re not, it’s a good idea to keep your sitter in the loop on basic rules, so she can help you enforce them.

Depending on the time of day you’re gone, and for how long, your sitter might not need all of this information. But anyone with kids knows that it’s better to be over prepared than not. The more prepared your sitter is, the easier time you’ll have walking out the door with ease, knowing your sitter has all the tools she needs for a great experience.

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Need a Babysitter for the Holidays? Expect to Pay More Than Usual

Need a sitter for New Year’s Eve? Looking for an experienced professional to watch the kids so you and your spouse can attend a party on Christmas Eve? Want an extra pair of hands to help out on Christmas Day, or during this year’s long holiday weekend?

You’re not alone. But be warned – you should expect to pay more.

Babysitters and nannies, like many other service professionals, expect to be paid a little more when they work during the holidays. Chances are, they have to give up plans with family or friends to provide your family with childcare. Even if they’re not celebrating with family or friends, providing childcare means sacrificing what would otherwise be “down time” for themselves.

So after you line up sitters to provide childcare during the holidays, how do you determine what to pay them? Some say 1.5 times your sitter’s normal rate, while others say 2 times their normal rate. And others decide to simply pay a flat bonus on top of the sitter’s regular rate. As you determine what to pay your sitter this holiday season, here are a few factors to consider.

1. Time. You should consider not only the length of time, but also the time of the day you’re asking your sitter to provide childcare. It’s one thing to ask your sitter to come over for a few hours on the afternoon of Christmas Eve so you can finish some last-minute shopping. It’s an entirely different thing to ask her to come over for six or seven hours on the evening of Christmas Eve, when she could otherwise be with family or friends. You should also consider how much of the time she’s at your house will be essentially inactive, after the kids are in bed.

2. Age. Let’s face it: sitters in junior high don’t seem to have as busy of a social calendar as sitters in high school or college. However, they also don’t have as much experience. So depending on several factors, including the age of your kids, you might prefer someone a little older. If that’s the case, you should plan to pay a little more, mostly because older sitters will likely bring more experience to the job.

3. When you requested the care. It’s a good idea to request sitters for the holidays yesterday (or at least a month or two in advance). If such advance notice isn’t possible, and you find yourself frantically calling every sitter on your contact list the weekend before the sitting event, plan to pay a little more. This will show your sitter appreciation for helping out during the time of year that is busy for everyone.

4. Number of children. The more children you have to care for, the more work it is for the sitter. You should also consider the age of your children. A sitter who is asked to care for three children who need help eating, getting dressed and brushing their teeth should be paid more than a sitter who is essentially keeping a 10-year-old company. During the holidays, many of us have extra kids, such as family, friends or cousins, at our house. Most experts agree that an extra $1 to $2 per hour should be added to your sitter’s regular rate for each extra child.

Besides cash, parents can make lots of other gestures to show appreciation for their sitter or nanny for working during the holidays. If she’ll be in charge during the dinnertime hour, offer to pick up her favorite take-out. Or if she’s staying extra late, offer to let her sleep on your couch, and get paid an overnight fee. That way she won’t have to drive home in the wee hours of the morning, and you and your spouse won’t have to worry about getting home at a specific time.

Whatever your plans may be, we at SeekingSitters wish you the happiest, healthiest and safest season and New Year! Happy Holidays!

This blog was originally published Dec. 21 on momaha.com, the Omaha World-Herald’s online community for moms, dads and families.

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How Your Sitter Can Help with Your Discipline Plan

Enforcing rules and discipline isn’t a fun task for any parent. No one wants to be the “bad cop,” the “nag,” or the “not-fun parent.”

But we have rules for a reason. Your children need to know it’s NOT OK to hit or bite other children, particularly their siblings. They need to understand that it’s wrong to take something that’s not theirs, or say something that’s unkind to another adult or child. They need to understand there are consequences for unacceptable actions.

And the best way to enforce your rules is through consistency. To be consistent, everyone who cares for your children — including you, your spouse and your sitter or nanny — must be on the same page when it comes to not only knowing what is right or wrong, but also enforcing the consequences for wrong behavior.

If your sitter knows how you usually respond when your kids’ behavior goes south, she can respond the same way, which will strengthen her authority and help her reinforce the rules you’ve already established. Here are some steps for including your sitter in your discipline plan, if you aren’t already doing so.

  • Establish solid rules. Sit down with your spouse or significant other and establish solid rules. While you might both agree on a vague definition of “right” and “wrong,” you might not be on the same page when it comes to what your kids deserve a consequence for behaviors. You may agree they should have a consequence for hitting another child, but don’t agree on what that consequence should be. By deciding what the rules are and the consequences for breaking those rules, it will be easier for your sitter to follow through with your kids on what you want.
  • Be consistent (with yourself and your sitter). It’s easy to let things go, or give your child a shorter timeout if you’re having a bad day or don’t feel like you have the energy to deal with misbehaving children. By sticking to your plan, and giving your sitter the authority to do the same, your kids will remember the rules, which will hopefully make things easier on everyone the next time they are tempted to break them.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Perhaps you’ve decided that the main consequence for breaking a key behavioral or household rule is a timeout. And the length of that timeout will match in minutes your child’s age. If your sitter ends up telling your 5-year-old the consequence for hitting his sister is no dessert after dinner, instead of a 5-minute timeout, don’t get mad. The main point is that your child needs to have a consequence for his actions. And by not allowing your child to have dessert, he got that consequence. Focusing on the big picture, instead of non-consequential details, will make the entire process less stressful for everyone.
  • Respect your sitter’s ideas and approach. You can respect your sitter by not only listening to her ideas and considering them (after all, she spends a good amount of time with your kids as well and might have some insight you haven’t yet uncovered). You can also respect her by speaking about her positively to your kids when she isn’t around. This will help enforce among your kids that you support your sitter’s decisions and disciplinary actions when you aren’t around.

What are some ways you work with your sitter to enforce your discipline plan? We’d love to hear more ideas. Post your ideas on our Facebook page to share them with our SeekingSitters family!

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Setting Ground Rules for the Grandparents

More often than not, grandparents are a godsend for families. They provide support and guidance as our children are growing up. If they live nearby, they are often able to help out when we’re in a pinch, or even on a regular basis. And the love a grandparent has for his or her grandchildren is irreplaceable and immeasurable.

But let’s face it – as wonderful as they might be, their parenting styles and rules might be different than ours. They might let our kids eat corn dogs and fries every time they come over, while these items are reserved for special occasions in our home. They might let our kids play games on the iPad for hours, while the iPad or other electronics are limited or allowed only to reward good behavior in our home.

Grandparents have every right to treat our children and give them special things – it’s part of what being a grandparent is all about! But when they consistently do things that conflict with the rules or boundaries you’ve established with your kids, it can be confusing for your child. And, even worse, if the patterns continue, you will start to resent them.

In order to maintain good relationships between you, your parents and your children, it’s a good idea to set aside time to sit down and talk with them about key issues that are important to you. By being proactive about your rules instead of reactive, you can save yourself from awkward disagreements later on. Here are some key issues to focus on.

  • Schedules. Maybe you keep a loose schedule at home and address responsibilities and “to-do lists” as they arise. Or maybe you keep a more regular routine that involves completing the same tasks, such as making beds and completing homework, at a specified time every day. Whatever your schedule is, your parents need to know it before they care for your children. Knowing the schedule, and how important it is to your family, will make the time they spend with your child easier for everyone.
  • Food. It’s important to let your parents know what time your children are used to eating and the kinds of foods they like to eat. This will not only help them offer options that are consistent with what you provide, but also ensure they don’t make an entire meal your child won’t eat.
  • Activities. It’s never a bad idea to bring some activities, such as games or crafts, your kids can do while they are with their grandparents. Your parents might not have toys on hand, or remember what kinds of crafts children like at different ages. It’s also important to let your parents know what kinds of activities you don’t want your children to engage in. Perhaps you don’t want them to watch certain television shows or play with the iPad for longer than a certain period. Telling them your preferences ahead of time will save you some frustration later on.
  • Discipline. You always hope your child will be on their best behavior when they are with your parents. But if by some chance they decide to hit, bite or throw a crazy tantrum, you need to be upfront with your parents about how to respond. Responding to bad behavior the same way you do will make a greater impact on your child.
  • Rest time. If you have younger children, rest time is an important daily activity. When conveying your child’s daily routine to your parents, it’s important to let them know when this regular rest time usually occurs and how long it should be. The last thing you want is for your toddler to sleep the afternoon away, then resist bedtime later on.

When you share your child-rearing rules with your parents, remember to do it with love and respect. No matter how you both approach discipline, rest time or activities, you both have the same goal in mind – to give your child the best care possible. And by working together and keeping an open line of communication, you most definitely will.

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When your Kids like your Sitter More Than You — How to Cope

“I’m going to take you to the library today, then we’re going to have lunch together,” you tell your three-year-old. “Won’t that be fun?” you ask her with a smile.

“Ok,” she says, indifferently. “I guess.”

“And then,” you continue, “daddy and I are going out tonight, so Suzie is coming over to take care of you later today.”

“YAAAAAY!” she shouts with pure joy. “I CAN’T WAIT for her to come over!”

Ok, that’s a good thing, you think. It’s good that your child is excited to see her sitter. Her love of her sitter makes it easier for you to leave home for a relaxed, worry-free evening.

But deep down, you wonder — why don’t I ever get that reaction when we spend time together? Aren’t I fun, too? Does she have to like Suzie SO much more than she likes me?

These feelings aren’t uncommon. When your child becomes particularly attached to another caregiver – a sitter, nanny or grandparent – it can be difficult to understand why he or she doesn’t seem to have that same love for his or her parents. Your child may think your sitter is fun to be around, or that she loves your sitter or prefers her sitter over you.

In reality, you probably have nothing to worry about. Childhood is full of phases and most attachments to other caregivers end up being short-lived. But here are a few tips for getting through this phase in the meantime.

  • Understand it takes a Village. Remember that it’s good for your child to have affection for and from more than one authority figure as he’s growing up. Different caregivers can provide a different perspectives and experiences, and learning how to follow rules and respond to another adult is good practice for school or any organized activity.
  • Make a point of unplugging from life when you get home. When you walk in the door after being gone for a while, it’s tempting to start in on your to-do list without missing a beat. Instead of starting dinner right away or folding a load of laundry, change into play clothes and spend some one-on-one, uninterrupted time with your child. This will not only be good for your soul, but also help him realize you can be just as fun as the sitter!
  • Establish shared daily routines. If it’s hard to schedule more actual “play time” with your child, figure out ways to integrate your regular daily routines. Eat dinner together every night, spend time reading together before bed or go for a short walk together before or after school. Just having that regular time together will make both of you feel more connected and loved.
  • Schedule regular “date nights” with your kids. For many busy families, schedules drive our regular activities. So if you’d like to make a point of doing something special with your kids to establish or re-establish a bond, don’t wait for a free afternoon or evening. Put it on the schedule! Write down when and where you’ll be having that movie date with your daughter or two-hour Lego-building session with your son. If it’s on the schedule, it will happen, and you won’t be sorry.

As you’re going through this sometimes trying chapter of parenthood, remember too much love for another caregiver is better than no love at all. The fact your child looks forward to his sitter means he feels comfortable with her and he has fun when she is around. And this means you can leave him confident that he is being well-cared-for while you are away.

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