Leaving your child with a sitter for the first time can be very scary and emotional for new parents. I remember interviewing sitters for the first time, using a set of hand-written questions copied from the internet, which I read directly off the paper instead of engaging candidates in conversation. I have learned a lot since then, and have some pieces of advice for parents starting the process of hiring a sitter:

Ease into it. If you are nervous to leave your child, take baby steps. One of the best ways to do this is to hire a sitter to come over to care for baby while you are home. UrbanSitter, our favorite online babysitting resource, offers an option, called a “paid interview.” We have interviewed several of their sitters this way. A paid interview allows you to see how the sitter and your child interact. It also lets you to get to know the sitter, which, in turn, allows you to feel more comfortable when you take the next step and leave the sitter alone with your child.

Get Organized. Prepare a list of emergency numbers for your sitter, including your cell phone number and your partner’s number. Include any other important numbers. Our list has our pediatrician’s number and our apartment superintendent’s number. If your child has a set schedule, write it out. Include everything that you want done in a specific way. This should include things like feedings and naps, and anything that matters to you. If there is a specific way that you want the baby’s bottle cleaned, include it. Don’t feel silly. It will give you piece of mind and will actually help the sitter.

Be Extra Cautious. Although the vast majority of sitters are wonderful and upstanding individuals, it is smart to be careful. We learned the hard way when someone stole my watch when they were sitting for us. I now always ask to see the sitter’s driver’s license or passport and make a photocopy, and only use reputable services to hire sitters. UrbanSitter, and babysitting resources like it, give parents an additional piece of mind because they have vetted their sitters through interviews and/or background checks -- at a minimum. Reviews from actual families -- such as UrbanSitter's 1-5 star rating system and user comments -- enhance your knowledge based on others' experiences.

Have Fun! The purpose of hiring a sitter is for you to enjoy some child-free time. Because of your preparations, the sitter can -- and will -- find you if he/she has any questions. If it makes you feel better to check in with the sitter, then do it...but don’t let it take away from your special time.

Photo from here.

Raising a mentally strong kid doesn't mean he won't cry when he's sad or that he won't fail sometimes. Mental strength won't make your child immune to hardship—but it also won't cause him to suppress his emotions.

In fact, it's quite the opposite. Mental strength is what helps kids bounce back from setbacks. It gives them the strength to keep going, even when they're plagued with self-doubt. A strong mental muscle is the key to helping kids reach their greatest potential in life.

But raising a mentally strong kid requires parents to avoid the common yet unhealthy parenting practices that rob kids of mental strength. In my book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do, I identify 13 things to avoid if you want to raise a mentally strong kid equipped to tackle life's toughest challenges:

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