How to help your teen be a safe sitter

June 26, 2023 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

If your young teen is considering babysitting, she/he needs to be prepared. Safety is the main priority. Your teen should know how to prevent unsafe situations and what to do when faced with an emergency.

Before your preteen/teen even begins babysitting, it’s wise to take a babysitting safety class, such as a Safe Sitter® class. You can also check with your local hospital, YMCA or Red Cross for classes. Training should include safety skills such as basic first aid, the Heimlich maneuver, and infant and child CPR. Sign up for a CPR or First Aid class.

Also, prior to the first time your preteen/teen will be alone babysitting, encourage her to shadow the parent or do a shift as a mother’s helper. This will give her a chance to get familiar with the family and the home where she’ll be sitting. This is also a good time to ask about allergies and where to find important phone numbers in case of an emergency.

When it’s time to babysit, remind your preteen/teen to keep her eyes on the children at all times. Even if a child is sleeping, check on them frequently. This is not the time to be distracted on the phone. Also, never open the door for strangers. Lastly, tell your preteen/teen to call you, and/or the child’s parents, with any concerns or questions.

Talk with your preteen/teen ahead of time about how to prevent dangerous situations and, if they occur, how to handle them:

  • Allergies – Ask the parents ahead of time about any allergies (food, seasonal, etc.). Know how to recognize symptoms of an allergic reaction and what to do if one if it occurs (e.g., when and how to use an EpiPen®).
  • Burns – Keep kids away from heat sources (e.g., stove, oven, fireplace, space heater), hot liquids, chemicals, lighters and matches. Don’t use ice on a burn. Run cool water over it and cover it lightly with a sterile gauze or clean towel. How (and when) to treat a burn at home.
  • Choking – Keep kids away from small items, coins, hard candies, popcorn, peanuts, etc. that they could choke on. Cut up foods like hot dogs and grapes, and don’t let kids run around with food in their mouth. Know how and when to use the Heimlich maneuver.
  • Fire – Know the fire escape plan ahead of time. Get everyone out of the house immediately, then call 911.
  • Injuries – Don’t let kids climb on open dresser drawers or play on stairs. Keep sharp objects out of reach. Make sure children wear helmets and other protective gear at all times when riding a bike, rollerblading, skateboarding, etc. Be extra careful with trampolines and bounce houses.
  • Poisoning – Keep household cleaners and medicines out of reach. Symptoms of poisoning include burns/redness around the mouth, chemical-smelling breath, vomiting, drowsiness and/or confusion. If poisoning is suspected, call the poison center at 800-222-1222. What to do if someone is poisoned.
  • Water safety – If the family has a pool or hot tub, keep the kids away from it. If the parents allow swimming, keep your eyes on the children at all times while they’re in and around water. Learn about water safety.
  • Heat exhaustion or frostbite – Minimize time in the heat, take regular cool-off breaks and stay hydrated. In cold weather, to avoid frostbite, don’t stay outside too long.

Know when to call 911

Tell your preteen/teen it's OK to call 911 if she thinks it's a life-threatening situation (and even if she isn’t sure). She should know the full street address of the home where she’s sitting, and have easy access to emergency contacts and numbers.

Make sure your preteen/teen understands what constitutes an emergency and to call 911 immediately if she notices:

  • The child is acting strangely, not alert, unresponsive or unconscious
  • Difficulty breathing, unable to speak
  • Skin or lips that look blue, purple or gray
  • Rhythmic jerking of arms and legs (seizure)
  • Severe pain
  • A cut or burn that is large and deep, and will not stop bleeding
  • Vomiting blood
  • Severe stiff neck, headache and fever
  • Dehydration (sunken eyes, not making tears or urinating, lethargic)
  • A suddenly spreading purple or red rash

Learn more about pediatric emergency care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Related blogs:

How to prepare your sitter for an emergency

Why your grade schooler should learn CPR

How to handle an emergency

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