How clear expectations can protect both you and your caregiver and help you avoid problems.
You're working part-time and your 16-year-old niece has agreed to sit for you after school. You're delighted, but want to make sure you preserve your close relationship with your niece, whether or not the sitting works out.
One way to protect your relationship is to set clear guidelines from the beginning -- guidelines that will enable both of you to know whether or not your expectations are being met. Setting them out in the beginning might also enable the babysitter to realize that this job is not something she wants to take on -- saving both of you from a potentially embarrassing or awkward outcome.
In order to protect both the sitter and yourself, clarify your expectations so that she can try to meet them or, if she doesn't, you can talk about it.
Be specific about all tasks
If you want the sitter to prepare dinner and clean up afterward, discuss such details as what to cook, where to find the food, how to do the dishes, what to do with the leftovers.
Be specific about prohibitions
Be clear if the sitter can't have friends over, spend most of her time on the phone, or park your kids in front of the TV. If the sitter is welcome to help herself to certain food and beverages around the house, but not others, let her know what she can and cannot take.
Are your children supposed to try everything on their plate, finish certain items, avoid junk food, or have dessert only after they eat their vegetables? Whatever the rules are, let your sitter know. Be sure to check out Care.com's Healthy Meals guide for some tips about healthy eating!
If it is important to you that your kids go to bed at a certain time, let the sitter know that you expect her to enforce this rule. This Bedtime Guide describes what you should review with the babysitter about your family's nighttime routines.
Let the family member know that you are clarifying expectations so that both of you can feel comfortable with the arrangement. Tell her that you love and respect her, and trust her judgment, but that you want her to be clear about what you as the parent want for your children.
Ronnie Friedland is an editor at Care.com. She has co-edited three books on parenting and interfaith family life.