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A Guide to Supporting Your SmartSitter’s Needs

By: Gabi Shiner
SmartSitting Diversity and Inclusion Council Mental Health Advocate

Hierarchy of mental health needs by @crazyheadcomics
“Hierarchy of Mental Health Needs” by Instagram user @crazyheadcomics.

Everyone’s mental health needs look different. There are several ways families can better accommodate sitters with specific needs, while honoring their personal boundaries. Your introductory conversation with a SmartSitter is a great opportunity to signal that you care about accommodating whatever needs they may bring to the table. Here are a few possible strategies for showing your support:

Bring up breaks

It can be helpful to show your sitter that you are interested in making space for their self-care while avoiding the often daunting “do you need anything?” One way to do this is to lay out the schedule for the day; mention what times would be best for your sitter to take a meal or a little break. For instance, mention, “feel free to eat when our kids do” or “naptime could be a moment for a break if you need”. This clarification can mean a lot to your sitter. 

Communication

Before leaving or starting work, indicate when you will and won’t be available or reachable by phone or text. It can also be helpful to explain if you can be contacted for all questions and not just emergencies

If your sitter does ask for something, assume best intentions

If a sitter approaches you with a question or need, there’s a chance they’re taking a major emotional risk. People with disabilities as well as people with other marginalized identities are at constant risk of being perceived as lazy and disobedient. As a result, they often don’t ask for help. If a sitter asks for something, there’s no need to express outright that you don’t judge them for having needs. Just remember that asking takes integrity and deserves a compassionate, non-interrogative response. 
While support looks different for everyone, these small gestures will go a long way in helping your sitter recognize your home as a space where they can thrive.

The SmartSitting Diversity and Inclusion Council is part of our ongoing efforts to build inclusive spaces in the SmartSitting network. We invite you to share your thoughts, ideas, and questions for the council on Facebook or Instagram. Want to get more diversity and inclusion resources sent right to your inbox? Sign up for our newsletter!

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