Serious Sitting Sitches
Parents are counting on you to spot potential dangers—and handle them. Here are ways to avoid putting that info to use:
• Know where potential household hazards are, such as electrical outlets and cords, stairs, appliances and radiators.
• Ask parents if all medicines and household cleaners are locked up.
• Never leave a child in or near a full bathtub or on a changing table, bed or sofa.
• Be on the alert for small objects children could choke on.
• Supervise outside play carefully. Watch children on yard equipment, and don’t count on them remembering safety rules like “ride your bicycle on the sidewalk.”
Your safety is as important as the children’s. Accept job offers from people you know or who are referred by a friend. When the parents drop you home, make sure they wait until you are safely inside before driving away. If you need another way home for any reason, like if the dad comes home drunk, call your parents. If that seems embarrassing, develop a code with your folks that means, “Come get me.” Tell the employer your mom has to run an errand and she’ll pick you up.
In Case of Emergency…
When danger strikes, do you know what to do? GL’s got your guide on how to handle those unexpected emergency moments.
Who to call…
Before the parents leave, be sure to get a list of emergency contact numbers:
• The local emergency phone number (usually 911 for the fire department and police department): make sure you know the address of the house you’re sitting!
• Phone number for the local poison control center
• Parents’ cell phone number (be sure to get both in case one doesn’t pick up)
• Phone numbers of a few trusted neighbors
• Phone numbers of a few local relatives, such as an aunt or uncle
• Phone number for the children’s doctor
Of course, not every emergency situation requires the police or fire department. If the kid scrapes his knee while you’re babysitting, call the parents before you call the doctor. You should also know where the parents keep the first aid kit in case you have to play nurse until they get back. When in doubt, call the parents and find out what they would like you to do.
Stop, drop and roll…
While you’re taking a tour of the house, ask the parents to show you the fire escape plan. Every family should have one that includes at least two exits and a designated meeting place outside of the home or apartment. Like the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect,” so try running through the drill regularly to make sure you and the kids know what to do when the smoke detectors go off. Also remind the kids not to hide during an emergency and to stay low to the ground. Don’t forget to feel doors and handles for heat before opening them. If your hair or clothes catch on fire, stop, drop and roll. Most importantly, do not go back into the house for any reason, even if Fido is stuck on the second floor. It’s best to leave the rescuing to the professionals!
How to save a life…
No one expects you to know everything, but there are a few lifesaving techniques that could literally save a life. Before you begin babysitting, it’s a good idea to learn basic first aid and CPR. Hopefully you’ll never have to use these skills, but remember, better safe than sorry. Ask your local YMCA or Red Cross for more information about first aid and CPR courses. These skills not only impress parents, but could also potentially save someone’s life.
For other emergencies, such as earthquakes, tornadoes or other natural disasters, find out what the family does beforehand. Remember, there’s no such thing as being too prepared!
Serious Sitting Sitches
What if something happens and you don’t know how to deal? What if all is quiet and suddenly disaster strikes? Even the best sitters can get caught off guard.
Four-year old Jimmy is on his scooter. Despite your hawk eye, he falls and cuts his knee. The gash is everywhere. Little Jimmy’s bawling, and you’re about to totally freak out.
First, stop freaking. The more scared you act, the most upset Jimmy will be. Take him inside and get the first-aid kit. Apply gauze and pressure to the injury. If the bleeding stops quickly, just clean it with antiseptic, like they taught you during your babysitting course, and put a bandage on it. If it bleeds through gauze, don’t take it off. Apply more fresh gauze on top, and apply pressure. Call an emergency contact or adult (like your mom) who can come over ASAP and decide if Jimmy needs to go to the hospital. You should call the parents at the same time to let them know what’s up. If you can’t reach anyone, go ahead and dial 911.
You’ve looked everywhere, and the kid is nowhere to be found.
You peeked at your mag for a sec, and he’s…gone! There’s no time to waste when a kid is AWOL. After you’ve (quickly!) scoured the house and the neighbors’ yards, call the parents and let them know you can’t find him. Yes, they may never let you sit again. But if he’s not hiding in a closet, he could be in a serious situation—down a well, in a strangers’ car—that you can’t handle.
You’re painting 8-year-old Kasey’s toenails when there’s a knock at the door. The man on the porch says he works with Kasey’s dad and needs to pick up some documents. Kasey’s dad didn’t say anything about someone coming by to pick up papers.
Do not let anyone in the house! Anybody you do not know is a stranger—even if he claims to know the family. Tell the stranger you’ll call Kasey’s dad’s cell and find out where the papers are. Take the cordless with you whenever you go to the door. Even if a uniformed deliveryman comes to the door with a package, do not open the door to sign. Let the driver know he can leave it on the porch.
A woman says her cars broken down and needs to borrow a phone to call for help.
It’s not up to you to help her. Don’t let her in the house, and don’t let her use the phone no matter how much she begs. Offer to call the police for her instead. If she says, “Never mind,” and leaves, call the police anyway.
Madison’s parents are divorced and her dad unexpectedly stops by and offers to let you off duty and take Madison with him. Even though he’s Madison’s dad and Madison is psyched about the impromptu dad time, you need to politely ask that he come back when Madison’s mom is around. If he doesn’t leave, call Madison’s mom to confirm whether it’s OK or not. Never let anyone take a child you are in charge of—for any reason.
An easy solution? If you hear the doorbell, look out a window. If you don’t know the person, don’t answer it.
I’m nervous about bathing kids. Do I have to?
Avoid bathing infants—it’s better to leave that for the parents. If the baby is a mess after dinner, wipe her face and hands with a damp cloth and change her clothes. Some parents will ask you to give the kids a bath, and it’s no biggie. Just never leave a child alone in the tub! Even if the phone rings.
I’m scared I won’t know what to do if something goes wrong.
Well, you’re set with your first-aid kit. You have the emergency numbers by posted by the phone. If something happens and you need help, call your parents, a neighbor or the kids’ parents. But accidents can be prevented. Never let kids out of your sight, no matter what. They’re curious, they’re explorers and they’re quick. So stay on it! Keep them away from hot surfaces, like stoves or ovens. Keep pot handles turned away from their reach if you’re cooking—one quick grab can knock over a pot of boiling water. If the power goes out, find a flashlight and candles. And, most important, always keep babies on their backs while they sleep.