Hiring a babysitter can be a frightening endeavor for parents, particularly in the early days of parenthood. New parents often go overboard with detailed explanations of routines, soothing techniques, emergency numbers, and so forth. As babies slowly grow into young children, parents naturally become more comfortable with babysitters, and it’s not uncommon for parents to forget the need to properly prepare a babysitter. It can also be somewhat routine for parents to bring aboard new babysitters when they’re in a crunch, even people who are unfamiliar with the family.
Sally Herrholz, Executive Director of Safe Sitter, Inc., says, “The most important thing to remember in hiring a babysitter is that you are hiring a person you are willing to trust with the responsibility for your child’s life.”
When said that way, it’s almost scary. But a little bit of fear can lead to a lot of protection. And this is exactly what parents want when it comes to a babysitter—someone who will protect their children in their absence.
Elizabeth Pantley, bestselling author of the No-Cry book series, says it’s important for parents to have a trustworthy babysitter, someone who understands the children’s needs, and who knows the necessary safety and emergency information. Pantley emphasizes the point that parents should allow for adequate time to talk to their sitters, to ensure that they are fully prepared to care for the children. “Parents might find it helpful to have some of the key points written down,” Pantley says. “Some parents even make a booklet with necessary information about the children, what to do in case of emergency, and safety features of the house.”
Need a refresher on what kinds of safety information to give your babysitter? Here are a few suggestions from Elizabeth Pantley and others. If relevant to your family, include this information in a booklet or printout and display in a prominent place (such as on the fridge). Be sure to walk your babysitter through the items on the list. This will take a bit of time, but it will be time well spent. Your babysitter should be fully prepared and armed with knowledge!
Emergency Contact Information
Include your cell phone, your spouse’s cell phone, neighbors’ home and cell phone numbers, as well as numbers for the kids’ pediatrician, the nearest hospital, the poison control center, and the nearest fire department. You might also include your address and the nearest intersection to your home (in case emergency services might need that information). It’s also a good idea to write down the number of your location—where you will be—in case your cell phone doesn’t work.
Household Safety Information
This list should include information such as the location of phones, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, emergency exits and ladders, first aid box, fuse box, and flashlights. You might also include how to open the safety gates; how to lock and unlock the doors; where the spare keys are kept; and instructions on what to say and do when the doorbell or the telephone rings.
Child Safety Information
You might include on this list specific things your child gravitates toward that are dangerous (trying to sneak out the front door, for instance). Also include potential hazards for children at this age (falling in the toilet, falling down stairs, etc.). It’s also a good idea to include a WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF EMERGENCY list of step-by-step instructions. You never know how babysitters will react in an emergency situation, and explicit instruction could prove to be helpful.
General Information About Your Child
This might include your child’s age, weight, and height; food or medicine allergies; clear instructions for medication to be given and dosage; your child’s eating/sleeping/playing habits; and activities and games your child enjoys.
General Rules for the Home
It’s a good idea to include on this list your rules about personal phone calls, guests visiting the home, clean-up responsibilities, sleeping, and in what situations you would like to be called. You might consider including rules regarding your personal computer, as well (whether it is on of off limits). Many babysitters are also accustomed to text-messaging. If you would rather be called than text-messaged, you might include this type of information.
This can include instructions on how to use the television and DVD player, and snacks and drinks that the babysitter should feel free to eat and drink.