SmartSitter Spotlight | MaryKate G.March 12, 2020
We’re pleased to introduce a new series we’ll be sharing each month on the blog that will highlight one of our amazing sitters. First up, we’re spotlighting MaryKate G. In this interview, MaryKate shares her advice on helping shy children open up, her go-to activity to keep kids entertained, and more.
SmartSitting: How many years have you worked with SmartSitting?
MaryKate: I have been with SmartSitting for a little over a year and a half! I was lucky enough to find SmartSitting pretty immediately after moving back to New York from California, where I had been working at a school for children whose families were experiencing homelessness.
SS: A recurring theme in your sitter feedback is that you were great with their shy child. What is your process like when you enter a home and the child is shy?
MK: Working with the many kiddos I’ve been lucky enough to meet has taught me a lot about the way that each child chooses to express and set boundaries. I’ve seen babies as young as 9 months set pretty clear personal space boundaries in a way that I think is admirable and so important!
It’s something that, as the caregiver, I always try to respect while still making sure the child is safe. With shyer children, I find that respecting these set boundaries while also engaging them is the key for the child to get to that initial moment of, “Okay, I trust you enough to show you my favorite Hot Wheels” or whatever the ice breaking toy ultimately is. This could mean admiring and commenting on their toys/games/books from afar, or, especially with older kids, really letting them come to you emotionally and not pushing too hard.
With younger children, I’ve had a lot of success opening with humor. A favorite four year old of mine was sold right away when I started with, “Let me guess….you’re…..13? Going into high school?” With many kids, silliness will get you really far!
SS: What’s your go-to activity for engaging the children you care for?
MK: Hide and seek is my go to activity—it’s a full-proof pleaser for kids of all ages. I’ve seen it both engage the shyest little one and stop impending “no iPad”-induced meltdowns. Children like to feel safe with their adult in charge while also knowing that you aren’t afraid to really engage them directly in play! Hide and seek is a great way to do this while also setting clear boundaries, such as“I would love to play hide and seek, as long as we remember that mom’s room is off limits! Can we do that?”
SS: SmartSitting families frequently share positive feedback on your communication style. How do you normally communicate with parents?
MK: When communicating with parents during a booking, I always make sure I’m prompt and responsive to their texts and check ins. If I get a text that says, “How’s it going?”, I wouldn’t just respond with “Great!” I keep in mind that it’s a big act of trust for a parent to leave their child with someone else, especially if it’s a new person through a temp booking. I understand it as part of my job to make sure the parents are comfortable and confident that their child is safe.
So in response to a text like, “How’s it going?”, I would always add extra details to paint a picture for the parent, while also making sure I’m not overwhelming them with information. For example I might respond, “Great! She ate almost all of the soup and chicken at lunch and the raspberries were a big hit. She had a little trouble settling down for a nap but once we went through Goodnight Moon an extra time she went to sleep just fine.” I also always make sure I check in if I’m unsure about anything, for example: “Hi! Just double checking smoothies are okay for dessert after dinner.”
Finally, if there’s a particularly sweet moment with the child I try to highlight after the booking when checking in with the parent, or send a photograph of a fun moment we had together during the booking! As a general rule, following the example of the SmartSitting Team’s overall tone of professionalism and positivity is always a good and helpful example to follow.
SS: What tips do you have for other SmartSitters when their preferred family submits a booking form?
MK: When communicating with the temp booking team about jobs with preferred families, I first and foremost make sure I am as positive, professional, and transparent with the temp team as I am with parents! I make sure I share full availability with them (even if it’s only for part of the requested booking), and I let them know if that specific family has been flexible about timing in the past. Even if I’m not available at all for a requested booking, I make sure to let the team know if I would love to work with the family next time I’m available! The best part of this job is getting to hang out with kiddos we love, so making sure the SmartSitting Team knows which bookings you particularly enjoy makes the sitting experience better for everyone!
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