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Editorial

Safety Pro


Babysitting? Getting Started with Parents



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04/01/2011 - Taking a line from an oldies' song: "Everybody needs a little time away…" And for parents of youngsters, this is especially true. Whether utilizing your local teenage pool of sitters or tapping into grammy and grandpa, here are some gentle safety reminders for babysitting.

Parents - It is your job to ensure that the selected sitter is responsible and able to provide safe sitting. So before cold-calling from the phone book to see if anyone is available to sit for your cherished angel, do some pre-event planning and check around with other parents using sitters or those who have teenage candidates for hire. If going the grandparent route, keep in mind that they need to be able to keep up with the child (toddlers or pre-school) and shouldn't be dumped on simply because they've finished raising you.

For an infant, the sitter should know how to change a diaper (not necessarily without gagging) and how to properly hold and feed the baby. Communities now offer babysitting certification classes that cover some vital subjects to help prepare kids to care for children. Ask the sitter to explain what he or she would do in case of an emergency.

In addition, consider inviting the first-time sitter over for a dry run while you're at home to familiarize him or her with your household and observe the interactions with your child. Here is when you can provide a full house tour and discuss where items are that the sitter may need, including the location of a first aid kit, how the door locks work, keys to inside doors in case the child locks himself into the bathroom, specific hazards that the child should not go near, etc.

Once the sitter arrives, have a list of items ready to review with the sitter – cell numbers of the parents, child routine and schedule, appropriate games or activities for the child, etc.. Include your written address and home phone number on the list in the event the sitter needs it in an emergency. Review any special rules about the house or the child so there are no questions about expectations. For example, if you don't want the sitter taking your child outside or having visitors while you are out, say so.

Decide if you want the sitter answering your home phone. If so, advise the sitter what you want communicated to the person on the other end of the line.

If your child requires scheduled medication, make sure the sitter knows the schedule and knows how to give the child the dose. If not on a schedule, review with the sitter whether you want your child to be given any medicines, such as children's cold or pain reliever, while you are out.

Upon your return, talk with the child about the experience. and be sure your sitter has a way to get home safely. If your sitter did a great job, show it. Paying well and promptly helps you get a good sitter back, when needed.

Randy DeVaul (safetypro@roadrunner.com) is a 30-year safety professional and emergency response instructor from Westfield, NY. Comments are always welcome.

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