Parents know all too well the immeasurable value of childfree time in the form of a good old-fashioned date night. But how many parents realise the value of parent-free time for the kids? Here are six reasons to leave the kids with a babysitter more than once in a blue moon.
1. Kids learn independence and self-confidence
Babysitting at home is one of the best ways to teach kids independence. It has all the benefits of individual care with the comfort of familiarity. Abi Gold, family therapist and owner of Juggle, says kids love showing newcomers toys and where things are kept. “It brings them out of their shell and can be a great way to nurture kids’ independence, self-confidence and social awareness.”
Lisa Maddox, a single mum to a five-year old, has used babysitters since her daughter was two, and advocates doing so. “My daughter has thrived with other carers in her life. It’s really helped her ability to relate to other people. She's independent, friendly to everyone and copes easily in new social experiences.”
2. It builds resilience and a coping ability
Parents who teach their kids resilience and coping abilities are doing them a huge favour, says child psychologist and director of Confident and Capable, Judith Locke.
“It’s like the first days at daycare; often the parents are just as nervous about separating. It’s human nature to want to think that your child can’t cope without you but if you teach them that they can, it’s a really excellent way of building resilience in your child,” she says.
Children who are comfortable being cared for by others have mastered a valuable life skill. “The definition of parenting success these days is defined by the child being successful but the really successful child is one who can adapt,” says Locke.
3. Kids learn to respect the needs of others
It’s normal for parents to put their kids’ needs first. The danger is that sometimes the family can become too child-centric, leading to behavioural issues later on. Locke says that separation teaches kids to respect their parents’ time and not just demand it. “It’s really not healthy for a kid to believe that their parents dote on them 24/7.”
Lisa says her daughter once asked where she was going. “I explained that just as she has play dates with her friends, sometimes mummy needs to see her friends too. She nodded and seemed completely fine with that.”
4. It’s a ‘night off’ for the kids too
Parents can pitch the babysitting gig as a special indulgence with extra stories, games and late bedtimes.
“My daughter loves having a babysitter and sees it as a treat for herself,” says Lisa. “It's not just about me having a good time but her as well. She gets very excited and always wants to know which one is coming.”
Gold seconds the idea of treats and advises slowly building the kids’ anticipation. “Talk to your child in advance about what’s going to happen. Keep gently feeding them confidence in this event,” she says.
5. It can help their cognitive development
Babysitting offers kids a great learning opportunity to engage with adults who have different speech, ideas and ways of doing things. One-on-one time with assorted people can pique their interest in the world outside of the immediate family.
Verity Bryson and her husband regularly engage a babysitter for their two children, aged 6 and 3. “She is very arty and plays lots of make believe games with them. She has a different perspective of play and doing things that’s really useful. The kids have a great time,” says Verity.
6. It’s an opportunity to build relationships
Babysitting gives your child a chance to bond with other adults. This can be especially nice for grandparents and other family who may not get the opportunity to have individual time with the kids.
For parents who don’t have family around, it’s a chance to develop new ties. Verity’s children have been lucky to have the same babysitter for the past four years. “We found our babysitter by advertising locally. She’s grown up with our kids and is like an aunty or a big sister to them. They adore her.”
Gold says the key thing in building enjoyable carer relationships is trust. “With a babysitter, there is an exchange of trust. It’s really important for the child to know that mum and dad approve and so, I’ll be okay.”