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Babysitter Safety: What You Need to Know

Must-have information for teens who babysit.

Before the Parents Leave: What to Ask

When you arrive at your babysitting job, don't just say "bye" and let the parents walk right out the door. Show up at least 30 minutes early your first time there so you can get a tour of the house and find out everything you need to know about the family's routine.

Here is a checklist of questions to ask the parents before they leave:

Where is the safety equipment?

  • Fire extinguisher
  • Flashlight
  • Alarm system
  • First aid kit
  • Exits
  • Fire escape route

Where is the list of emergency contacts with phone numbers? This list should include:

  • Parents' cell phone numbers and the phone number of the restaurant, theater, or wherever else they'll be that night
  • Local police and fire station phone numbers
  • Emergency number (usually 911)
  • Grandparents' phone numbers
  • Phone numbers of neighbors and friends who live close by
  • Pediatrician's or family doctor's numbers
  • Poison control hotline
  • The home's phone number, address, and directions to the house

What do I need to know to care for the kids?

  • What should they eat and when should they eat?
  • Do I need to cook?
  • Are snacks and sweets allowed?
  • Do they have any allergies to foods or medicines?
  • Do the kids need to take a nap? At what time? For how long?
  • At what time should they go to bed?
  • What is their bedtime routine (brushing teeth, taking a bath, putting on pajamas, reading a story)?
  • How should the baby be put to bed (on his or her back with no pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals)?
  • How should I calm the kids if they're crying or angry?
  • Is there anything else you need me to know about caring for your children?

What are the house rules?

  • How are the kids punished if they don't behave (time-outs, toys taken away)?
  • Should I open the door? For which people? (Our experts say it's best not to open the door for anyone while you're babysitting.)
  • If a child needs to take medicine, when should I give it and what is the right dose?
  • Are the kids allowed to watch TV? What programs can they watch?
  • Are the kids allowed to play computer or video games? What games can they play?
  • Can I take the kids outside?

What should I do if there's an emergency?

  • What should I do if your child is sick?
  • When should I call you?
  • Who should I call first if I can't reach you?
  • When should I call 911?

Other Tips to Remember Before You Babysit

Here are a few other things to think about before you babysit:

  • You might be young, but you're empowered. Don't do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. If the parents ask you to open the door for Uncle Charlie but he totally creeps you out, keep that door closed.
  • Stay off the phone and computer while you're watching kids. You need to be paying attention. "The television is not the babysitter, the video game is not the babysitter, you are," Herrholz says.
  • Never text, Facebook, or Twitter your location. You don't want to get in trouble for having your friends show up, and you definitely don't want some stranger surprising you at the front door.
  • Put your parents on call. If the father is supposed to drive you home and he comes home smelling like alcohol or he's making you really uncomfortable, make sure your parents can pick you up, no questions asked.
Reviewed on October 22, 2010

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