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Getting The Perfect Baby-Sitter

Leaving your children with someone else while you're at work or out for the evening can be a bit nerve-wracking.

Heidi Murkoff, author of the best-selling, "What to Expect When You're Expecting," hopes to calm parents' fears and boost caregivers' confidence with her newest book. It's called "The What to Expect Baby-Sitter's Handbook."

Murkoff says that her handbook is designed for full-time nannies, Saturday-night sitters and grandparents alike. She calls it the "cliff notes" for her other books - all of the essential information caregivers need.

The book covers everything from how to warm a bottle, to taming a tantrum to stopping a nosebleed.

Of course, you want a sitter who knows a lot about kids, Murkoff says, but there's no way to be 100 percent sure what a baby-sitter knows or doesn't know. By giving this book to your baby-sitter, you ensure that she has all the information she needs.

Before passing this book off to your baby-sitter however, you have to find a good sitter. The first step in hiring a qualified sitter is asking for recommendations and calling references. But the most important part of the process, according to Murkoff, is to hire a potential sitter on a trial basis, before committing to this person on a permanent basis. This individual will practically be joining the family, so you need to make sure she gets along well with your children and feels comfortable in your household. A couple of weeks should be sufficient time to see if the sitter is a good fit.

Communication is the key to any successful relationship - and the parent-sitter relationship is no exception. As a matter of fact, Murkoff points out that this is one of the most important relationships in a parent's life. She offers parents these tips on communicating with their baby-sitter:

Share Specifics: Most parents leave baby-sitters a list of emergency contacts, suggestions for dinner and a time that kids should go to bed. However, your child will be much happier if the baby-sitter also knows the smaller, but still important details such as: which sippy cup is baby's favorite, how does your toddler like her sandwich cut, what book does your child insist having read to him before bed, where is your child's favorite playground, what toys are appropriate to take outside, etc.

In the back of her baby-sitter's handbook, Murkoff has blank pages where parents can fill in all of this important information. Murkoff feels strongly that sharing these specifics allows your child's care to remain consistent. This is important because it helps your child feel secure.

Keep a Daily Log: The first question most parents ask when they walk in the door from work or a night out is, "What did you guys do today?" It's helpful for parents to know more than "We played on the swing set, ate dinner, read books and took a bath." You want to know what your child ate, how long her nap lasted, if you have a little baby you may want to know how many diapers he's been through. Ask your baby-sitter to jot down these details in a daily log.

Hold "State-of-the-State" Meetings: Murkoff recommends that parents sit down with their regular sitter once a week - or at least once a month - to have an honest conversation about how things are going. This is an opportunity for both parent and sitter to air any concerns or complaints and figure out how to handle these issues.

Treat Sitter with Respect: Don't just be nice to your sitter, respect her. "Considering that there's no more important job than caring for your children, it only makes sense that child care providers be treated like professionals," Murkoff says. "A baby-sitter deserves the same kind of respect you'd give a colleague at work." Specifically, don't take advantage of your sitter by coming home late every day or asking her to do household chores that she really doesn't have time to do.

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