It can be tough to find a good babysitter. And it can be expensive, too. So it can be a blessing to have a family member who’s willing to watch your child every day. But it’s important to keep some things in mind before you ask a relative to care for a child who has learning and attention issues.
The first thing to think about is whether the family member is a good match for your child. Relatives might offer to be your child’s caregiver because they think they should. But they might not think about whether this arrangement makes sense for them.
If Grandma is your child’s favorite relative and they spend many happy hours together, they may be a good fit. But if Grandma gets worn out because your child is hyperactive, or if she doesn’t understand or “believe in” ADHD, the caregiving arrangement may not work.
Pros of Having a Family Member as the Caregiver
Having a family member care for your child has a lot of possible benefits. It can be great for your child to spend time with someone who loves him. He may also build a stronger connection to his family.
It can offer you a break from taking care of your child all the time. And it can be cheaper than hiring a babysitter. In some cases, a family member may not charge at all or may charge less than the going rate.
Cons of Having a Family Member as the Caregiver
Some family members may not understand that kids with learning and attention issues can be more sensitive to criticism and strict discipline. You may need a lot of diplomacy skills to get a relative to follow your babysitting instructions.
It can also be hard for family members to switch from being your child’s caregiver to just being his relative. If your child’s older sister is his babysitter, she might try to boss him around even when you are home, which may make him frustrated.
If it turns out the caregiving arrangement is not a good fit, you can’t just fire the family member. Likewise, if you have a disagreement with the relative over the weekend, Monday morning might be awkward because you need her to take care of your child.
Tips for a Better Caregiver Relationship
Explain to your family member the importance of sticking to your child’s schedule. Emphasize that following the routine can make her job easier.
Talk about strategies you know are effective with your child. Suggest ways to discipline him such as correcting him in a neutral tone, and demonstrate how to use praise to reinforce good behavior.
If your relative doesn’t want you to pay her, you might take her out for dinner or say thank you in another way. It’s also good to sit down with her occasionally and ask how things are going. Talk to your child too. There might come a time when he’s ready for someone new.
You might also want to talk to your relative about your child’s learning and attention issues before she starts babysitting. Preparation and ongoing communication can be very helpful.