#1 Give the Sitter a Tour of Your Home
Every home is different, and it’s important to show your sitter where everything is. Point out the fire extinguisher, where you keep the cleaning products, and how to use any childproofing items. For example, show your sitter how to open the baby gates and how to use the window blinds if the strings are tucked up. Also, point out items that your child tends to be drawn to. For example, some kids will notice any time an outlet cover is removed, while others are finely tuned into any time the bathroom door is left ajar. Point out how you use safety devices to keep on top of these behaviors and tendencies and keep your children safe.
#2 Provide Specific Safety Information
Go over the specific safety rules that apply to your family. If you are careful to keep your dishwasher latched so your child doesn’t get into the knives that need to be washed, for example, tell your sitter. Also, show him or her how you determine whether bathwater is the correct temperature and how you cook using only the back burners. It’s likely that you’re not going to be able to tell your babysitter every single safety rule, so don’t be afraid to print out a list of common safety situations in each room.
#3 Explain Sitter Expectations Thoroughly
In addition to specific safety rules, make sure you present your general expectations to your babysitter. If you do not want your children bathed because you’d rather not take the risk that there will be an accident, then let the sitter know. Explain your expectations for your sitter’s behavior, too: Spell it out if your sister is not allowed to have guests over or if he or she should not use their phones for texting or using social media until the children are in bed. It’s best for your babysitter to be fully aware of the children at all times and to reduce distractions as much as possible. Also, consider whether it’s okay for your sitter to take your child in his or her vehicle or whether they can go to the park. If your sitter will be driving, be sure that you leave the appropriate car seat or booster, and make sure that they know how to use it properly.
#4 Offer a Refresher on Important Safety Rules
Remember that you are probably not the only family who your sister works for, and unless he or she is working with your family very regularly, it’s easy for them to forget the safety rules. Each time your sitter comes, offer to do another walk-through of the home. Even if your sitter declines your offer, you should still keep a copy of the safety rules to refer to in your absence. Also, if you haven’t used a particular babysitter in several months, it’s likely that your child has new behaviors and habits that could affect his or her safety, so go over those as they come up.
#5 Devise an Emergency Plan
Even the most well-prepared and conscientious sitter can experience an emergency. Having an emergency plan will help keep your child safe and also give you peace of mind. Have your address clearly posted near the phone so your babysitter can give it to dispatch in case they need to call 911 for any reason. Also, leave emergency numbers for a neighbor or close friend in case you can’t be reached. Have a medical release form and a copy of your health insurance card handy, as well. Tell your sitter where to go in case of a fire or if the carbon monoxide detector goes off; you might consider asking a trusted neighbor in advance to be the one your sister turns to if there is this type of emergency.
#6 Leave Parting Instructions
Each time you leave the house while your sitter is with your children, let him or her know where you will be and when you expect to be back. You can also point out the list of emergency numbers and give any last-minute instructions about what to feed the children or whether they can play outside. Also, if any safety issues have come up since the last time you left the sitter in charge, be sure to make sure he or she is aware.
Good communication with your babysitter will increase the chances that your children will stay safe in his or her care. Remember to follow your gut instincts; if you are worried about a particular safety issue, don’t hesitate to bring it up. It’s better to be perceived as a bit overprotective than to leave the house without knowing that your children will be safe.
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