Selecting an appropriate sitter to trust with the care and safety of your child is the key to providing children with proper care when parents cannot be at home. Pick a sitter carefully. Ideally, you will select someone you already know and trust. If this is not possible, ask for references.
Sitters come in all ages and levels of experience, but here are a few pointers for selecting an appropriate person to care for your precious child in your absence:
· Parents should consider the length of time and the time of day when the sitter will work, along with the ages and number of children who will be in the sitter’s care. For some situations, an older teen or a mature adult may be the best choice.
· A sitter should be old enough and mature enough to handle the many responsibilities in the care and safety of your child. Baby-sitters should be at least twelve years old. Some twelve year-olds may be emotionally immature. By the same token, an older, more mature sitter should be alert, mobile, and responsible.
· When using a young sitter, ensure that he or she has taken a baby-sitting course. Many of these courses require that the student be at least twelve years old.
· When you require a sitter, you should select one well in advance of the first time you require her services. Don’t wait until the last minute to contract a sitter. It will take the sitter a little time to become familiar with your children and house.
· Interview the potential sitter well before you need them. Watch to see how they interact with your children.
· You should not expect a sitter to feel comfortable after a five minute briefing. Have the sitter over before you will actually need him so he can meet the children and you will have ample time to show him around the house and explain to him what you expect.
· Tell any sitter (including friends or grandparents) what you expect for child safety.
· Tour the house with your sitter, pointing out possible hazards, special features, such as stairways to be kept locked, or areas that are “off-limits” for your child.
· Get a list of references from other families your sitter has worked for and don’t be shy about checking out those references. A reference should indicate a proven record of good judgment, maturity, and the ability to follow house rules and directions.
· After you have tried out a sitter, don’t forget to ask the child how she liked the experience. Sometimes children can alert us to situations in which they feel threatened or uncomfortable.
Many cities and towns have baby-sitting courses. These courses provide the sitters insights into the responsibilities of baby-sitting. Course topics usually range from basic child and infant care to what to do in case of a fire. Even if the sitter has taken such a course, discuss with her the following points:
· Provide the sitter with a clear list of where you are going and how you can be contacted in case of an emergency. (If you have a cellular phone, you can be reached almost anywhere.) Don’t feel shy about calling home just to “check in” – and certainly call if your plans change and you will be in a different location.
· Make sure you have an emergency phone list and the sitter knows that it is posted by your phone. The list should begin with the full address and phone number of your home (in case the sitter is not familiar with it). Then include: Emergency 911 and/or the police, the local fire department and ambulance service, the local poison control center, where the parents can be reached, a nearby friend or relative, and the family doctor or pediatrician.
· Directions to the sitter should include house rules, what allergies the children have, what the children may eat, when bed time is, and the appropriate manner of discipline. A primary instruction should be that the children should never be left alone, not even for a minute.
· Instruct the sitter to never give medication to the children unless they are instructed to do so by you. If you wish them to administer medication, make sure they know how to give it and how much to give and when to give it.
· Instruct the sitter in the use of all baby products and equipment. Make sure instructions for using the security system, stereo equipment, microwave and the stove are clear.
· Sitters need to know how to handle minor emergencies, including basic first aid; they should know where the first aid kit is in your home. Sitters should know where the flashlight is in case of a power outage.
· Show your sitter what exits to use in case of fire. Instruct her to get the children out and not to go back in, and to have a neighbor phone the fire department.
· Smoke detectors should be in good working order and the sitter should know the locations of your fire extinguishers.
· The sitter should know how doors lock, where the keys are kept, and how to get out of the house in an emergency.
· The doors must be kept locked at all times and never opened for strangers. It is generally recommended that your friends and the sitter’s should not come to visit. Distractions could mean that the sitter is not paying attention to your child
· Should a person unknown to the sitter telephone your home, ask the sitter to take a message. She should not let the caller know that she is alone with the children. A telephone answering machine can be used to screen calls. Develop a policy for telephone use with your sitter prior to hiring.
· Instruct your sitter on what to do if someone knocks on the door. Be sure to alert the sitter to any callers or deliveries that you are expecting when you are expecting when you are gone.
· Remind baby sitters not to be afraid to call for help for any reason.
· Give a copy of Kids for Keeps to your sitter to read after the children are asleep and let her keep it as “tip” above and beyond her pay the first time you hire her.
Copyright 1995 Safety Health Publishing Inc.
Martin Lesperance is a fire fighter / paramedic and best selling author of the book “Kids for Keeps: Preventing Injuries to Children”. Martin speaks across North America on the topic of injury prevention. His talks are humorous, but still have a strong underlying safety message. For more information, call him at (403) 225 – 2011 or visit his website at www.safete.com.