For many parents, finding the right person to care for their child is one of the biggest decisions you'll ever make.
You may need a carer full-time, or to occasionally come in to help alleviate pressure on you, especially over the school holidays.
Whichever option you choose, it’s key to find someone you trust, as they'll be spending long hours with your children.
Choosing someone responsible, loves children and slots in well with your family's way of doing things is top of everyone's priority list, but there are various other characteristics that good child carers have.
Look out for these attributes when deciding if someone is right for you and your family:
1. A love of children
A top characteristic of good childcare is someone who genuinely loves children and enjoys spending time with them, advises Aisha Pandor, CEO of SweepSouth, which offers the services of trusted, vetted domestic workers with childcare experience.
"The carer will be interacting with them most of the day, so she should be able to see the world at their level and understand how they relate to it."
"When you first meet her, ask her about the children she's cared for in the past and how she kept them busy. It's also worthwhile asking what are, in her opinion, the best and worst parts of the job."
"You'll be able to tell a lot just by observing her reaction and how she speaks about the children she's cared for by the warmth on her face," adds Aisha.
2. A warm personality that connects with children
A great child carer needs to have a warm personality, a cheerful, bright disposition and the ability to naturally form a connection with your children.
"If she has a positive attitude, it will rub off on your children and they'll love spending time with her," says Aisha.
"Take note of how they react to her. Children have excellent instincts - if they ask you when she's coming again and can't stop talking about what she says and does, you’ll know they enjoyed her company."
3. Fun and energetic
If your kids are young, a carer will need lots of energy to keep up with them and spend hours playing games and engaging in the things that interest them. Childhood is all about fun, so the person needs to be prepared to organise, and take part in, fun activities.
A stimulating environment that will help children thrive and grow is important, but a carer who is prepared to have a good time on their level is what your children will appreciate most. Make sure that you provide enough games and outline a few ideas and activities so that your children's attention can be occupied for hours.
Childcare also entails a lot of work, so having a natural enthusiasm for children will help her to take the more difficult parts of her job in her stride.
4. A kind, nurturing spirit
By definition, child carers are in the business of caring for others, so being truly gentle and understanding is paramount, and having a loving, nurturing spirit is key to the role.
If a child is feeling upset, a kind carer will always consider the child's feeling first, regardless of how small the issue may seem to another adult’s mind.
5. Lot of patience
"Caring for children can be stressful and challenging," says Aisha.
"Tantrums, fighting over toys and refusing to get dressed or eat certain foods can test anyone's limits, so it's crucial that your child carer displays great patience and stays cool under pressure."
If the carer easily gets irritable or seems overwhelmed at everything being thrown at her, she may not be right for you. A childminder often juggles a whole lot of tasks at the same time, so she needs to be able to keep an even temper.
When you first meet her, ask her for an example of when a child under her care had a difficult moment, and how she dealt with it.
6. Trustworthy and reliable
A carer's trustworthiness is an important part of your hiring decision, as you'll be allowing her to care for your children and be alone with them in your home for long periods.
References are a great source of information on a potential carer's character and reliability, but if you can't find any, or if you need childcare in a hurry, it makes great sense to use an agency that has already screened a pool of applicants and has reliable carers for you to choose from.
7. Proactive and innovative
Anyone who has looked after children before knows how quickly things can go from being peaceful to chaotic, so a carer needs to be able to stay calm and react quickly if something goes wrong.
At the outset, ask a carer what they'd do if they found a surprise mess, like crayon drawings all over the wall, and how they'd handle an emergency if one were to arise, such as a child getting hurt or choking.
Being able to think on her feet and follow the right path out of a crisis are invaluable traits in a child carer, so look for someone who displays good common sense.
"A good carer needs to be proactive rather than reactive, knowing how to take charge of situations and issues so that they don't end up becoming problematic and need fixing," says Aisha.
When deciding upon a carer, the single most important thing is to feel assured that you're leaving your child in capable hands.
"Trust your gut feeling when you first meet the person, and evaluate things like how polite they are to others in the house, such as an elderly relative or the family's pets," advises Aisha.
"Caring for children is a very personal issue, and a good carer should be respectful of your practices and routines, and work with them."
Ultimately, a great childcare partnership is one where you feel confident that, together, you form a good team in taking care of your child.
Submitted to Parent24 by SweepSouth.
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