Report roundup: Preparing backup babysitters for emergencies

During the holidays, some childcare and preschool facilities may be closed on certain days, often requiring parents to call on family members and friends to watch a child while parents shop, work, or attend holiday gatherings. This month’s Mott Poll report asked parents of children age 0-5 years about providing information sitters may need, and asked adults without children in their household about handling urgent situations that could arise while babysitting. Parents and media around the country have been discussing their tips for preparing backup babysitters – here’s a roundup of the conversation.

In case of emergency

Less than half of parents in the Mott Poll had emergency contact information posted in an easy-access location. This was the focus of an article on The Bump, The holiday-specific mistakes not to make with your babysitter. Reporter Anisa Arsenault noted that preparing backup babysitters for emergency situations is essential, especially when the child is with someone who might not be their regular babysitter. “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,” said Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark. “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.”

Backup numbers for the backup sitter

Oftentimes, backup babysitters may include family or friends who don’t have any children themselves, and might not be as familiar with what to do in certain situations. This was highlighted in a Metro Parent piece, Are you preparing ‘substitute’ babysitters for the holiday season? Reporter Rebecca Thomas noted that substitute sitters might have difficulties knowing what to do in an emergency, making parents’ emergency instructions and information all the more important. Clark suggests leaving backup numbers for a neighbor or nearby family member to assist in an emergency situation. “Sometimes just having someone in close proximity like that makes a big difference,” Clark said. “Calling somebody right next door doesn’t feel like a big deal to an unsure babysitter. Make the request for assistance easier by setting up the pathway and make that known to the babysitter.”

Tips for parents

To help parents prepare for a backup babysitter, U-M Mott pediatrician Dr. Elizabeth Hill offers some tips for parents in a Michigan Health Blog post, Before hiring a holiday baby sitter, check this list twice. Dr. Hill notes that the backup sitter “might be familiar with the child from spending time with them, but unless they’ve done it before, it’s likely they haven’t thought about what’s required to provide care.” Dr. Hill recommends that try their best to be available while they’re away – leave all emergency numbers and backup numbers in a place that is easy to access. Providing all necessary information can help put both the parents and the sitter at ease. Dr. Hill says, “It helps the caregiver know what to expect and not make any guesses that might cause unrest in the child.”