Wellness Matters

8 Steps for a Better Babysitter

June 20, 2016

For a teenager, an opportunity to earn money is a really big deal. Many teens offer to babysit. This can be a blessing for many work weary parents who have not had much time to go out and be social. No matter how mature these sitters may seem, they are still children themselves. It is important to verify that they have a proven track record of responsibility and that they know the rules of your house. Here are eight steps to help ensure that your children remain safe and your sitter does a great job:
  1. Start with teens that either you or the children already know. If no one is available in that category, ask friends, neighbors or relatives to suggest babysitters that they have used. In any case, ask for references. Experienced teens should be able to provide a couple of references that you can call to verify experience and responsibility level.
  2. Does the sitter have proper training? Ask if they have taken a babysitting course or a CPR class. Most classes offer a certificate of completion - ask to see it. These classes cover first aid; safety issues around the home, as well as the use of fire extinguishers; discipline techniques; care of infants and toddlers; and ways to entertain children in age-appropriate ways. Make sure they have specific experience with babies if your child is still an infant. 
  3. Show the sitter the layout of the house, rooms that may be off-limits and safety devices that are in place that they may need to operate, such as a fire extinguisher or child proof latches. Also point out emergency exits and discuss any family emergency plans already in place.
  4. Provide the sitter with a clear list of expectations and rules for both the children and themselves. These may include: whether visitors are allowed? Are snacks ok after dinner or between meals? Are there special bedtime routines? Is the sitter expected to warm a meal or clean-up? Help with homework? 
  5. Explain how the sitter should handle any discipline problems. Time-out; call parents; no snack before bedtime.
  6. Discuss electronics. Phone calls should only be accepted from the parents of the child or the parents of the sitter. The only allowable outbound calls should be in the event of an emergency. The sitter’s attention should be focused totally on the children in his/her charge
  7. Talk to your sitter about your child’s medications or allergies.
  8. Provide a list of instructions when you leave. These may include: 
    • Any special night procedures for your home, such as locking doors and windows, turning on exterior lights, etc.
    • Names of any visitors or service repair calls expected during your absence.
    • Your cell phone number; your itinerary; an additional emergency contact; and your street address (needed for 911 emergencies.)
According to the Red Cross, nearly a third of all babysitters are rejected because of safety concerns of the parents. Don’t feel guilty for rejecting a nice teenager who may not be quite ready for this job. By thoroughly vetting and providing clear expectations to your sitter, your child will be safe and you can enjoy your time away with peace of mind.

About the Author

Sharon Troxler is a Babysitting Class Instructor and Director of Volunteer Services at Annie Penn Hospital

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