The Dangerous Mistake Most Parents Make With Their Holiday Babysitters


With winter breaks coming up for the kids and adult holiday parties and events, the need for babysitters is definitely on the rise. Often, the busy, hectic nature of the season forces parents to call on sitters who don't normally watch their kids -- visiting relatives, family friends, even neighbors. While parents are fully committed to the safety of their kids in these situations, a new poll shows we also tend to skip an important step that could lead to dangerous consequences.


A national poll conducted by the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan found that parents who rely on "substitute" babysitters during the holidays are forgoing taking steps to prepare the sitters for emergencies.

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According to ScienceDaily, researchers polled 386 parents of children ages 0-5 and found that less than half of the parents kept their sitters abreast of emergency contact information, like cell phone and work numbers. Only 47 percent left numbers for the child's doctor, while only 42 percent left contact info for nearby family or friends who could be reached in case of emergencies. Additionally, researchers discovered that parents who live more than 15 minutes away from the closest emergency room are far less likely to leave contact information than parents who live closer.


"Family members and friends may be a natural choice to help watch children but parents should make sure they are preparing babysitters for emergencies, especially those who don't have young children themselves," Mott poll coauthor Sarah Clark said in a news release. "Sitters should be able to easily find key contact information and be comfortable handling different types of emergencies. Parents shouldn't assume sitters have all of the information they need. They should go over basic information whether they will be gone all day or just a couple of hours."

In addition to contact information, Clark said that parents should keep their stand-in sitters apprised of how they'd actually like emergency situations to be handled. She also said that parents should consider leaving a first-aid book with information on how to handle non-dire medical incidents. 

The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital polled 546 adults without any kids in their home, and found that their responses to different emergencies vary wildly. When asked what they'd do if a child accidentally swallowed medicine, only about half said they would call poison control. And most adults polled said that if a child they were babysitting was choking, they would attempt to dislodge the item, but at least 8 percent said they'd wait and let medical professionals handle it.

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Of course, a trip to the emergency room or a serious life-threatening injury isn't going to occur every time you leave your kids with their great aunt while you enjoy an office Christmas party, but it never hurts to think ahead. For the safety of children involved and for the peace of mind of both parents and babysitters, things like pre-written babysitter checklists can be incredibly helpful.

"Babysitters may face a wide range of situations while watching for a child, from common injuries to more severe emergencies," said Clark. "Parents should be thoughtful about the guidance they give to make sure sitters are prepared."

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