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My Child Hates Going to the Babysitter, What to Do?

Babysitters are a necessity these days. Moms today wear more than one hat; aside from being housewives, they’re also breadwinners --- even community/ neighborhood organizers. It helps to have an extra hand to rely on, especially when the stress of juggling different roles has become too much.

But what should you do if your child hates being left with a sitter? Here are some tips:

First off, it’s important to adapt a compassionate disposition. A certain amount of anxiety at being left with a sitter (or any stranger) is normal for a child of any age. Children are hardwired to stay close to their caretakers; this instinct is Mother Nature’s way of making sure they never wander far from their parents. Being left at a sitter then may feel like abandonment, and kids worry that their parents would never come back.

So, don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong with your child if they resist being left with a babysitter. They are not insecure and you are not being a bad parent. They’re just acting on natural instincts.

What you need to do is have a ‘talk’ with your child about the babysitting arrangement. This applies to kids even as young as two. Kids need ‘talks’ to be able to anticipate changes, and thus make the transition easier for them.

Younger children, such as those 5 years old and below, can do with just an explanation about the changes to be expected in their routine. For instance, you can say ‘starting tomorrow, it’ll be Julie who would make you dinner, ok?’ Older children, on the other hand, can already appreciate a more abstract explanation. For instance, you can explain what a sitter is, and clarify that they are not meant to replace you in any way.

Don’t forget: with any talk you do, ask for your child’s opinion and feelings! You may not be able to agree with what they feel (especially if they hate the idea!) but at least you create an opportunity for them to ventilate and for you to address their fears. This is important as there might be justified reasons why your kids hate being left at the sitter. For instance, they might not be really getting along with the sitter or the other children in the sitter’s care.

When you see that your children have separation anxiety, it’s best to proceed slowly. Begin by arranging for a play date where you and the babysitter are both present in the same room. Kids are very sensitive; they are always observing you even when you think they are not. If they can see that you trust the sitter, and are comfortable with them, then they might feel more secure in their presence.

When you see that your kid(s) have become more comfortable with having you and the sitter, then you can withdraw your presence a little at a time. Maybe you can start working in a separate room but within viewing distance, and then later progress to leaving the house 15 minutes first, then 30, then an hour, then three hours. Doing so will instill in your child the certainty that whenever you go, it is guaranteed that you will always come back.

And if all else fails, perhaps you might want to consider changing babysitters. A child-sitter relationship also relies on chemistry. Perhaps you have the wrong fit? There are many cases when it’s not really the babysitting situation per se that the child has anxiety with, but the particular sitter that you have chosen.

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