Good babysitter instructions can help prevent child abuse

Woman feeding baby in high chair

The babysitter is at your house, your kids are acting like perfect angels and everyone is looking forward to a nice evening. As every parent knows, kids can switch from angels to outlaws in a minute if they think they can get away with it. They can also get overtired from the sheer excitement of having undivided attention from the sitter. Before you leave, make sure you are giving enough instructions to help when the going gets tough. Are you providing tools that can help prevent a situation from getting out of control?

“So many times, child abuse occurs when an unrelated male caregiver is in charge,” said Sandra Herr, M.D., medical director of the emergency department at Kosair Children’s Hospital. “But we also know that anyone can get frustrated when taking care of a child.”

What should you tell those watching your kids?

“In addition to the normal things like where you’re going and when you’ll be back, you can tell the babysitter how to handle your kids in moments of frustration,” said Stephen Wright, M.D., pediatrician, medical director of Kosair Children’s Hospital and chair of the Partnership to Eliminate Child Abuse. “In the heat of the moment, many people forget that babies and kids do not cry to make you frustrated or angry.”

“Babies cry because they’re tired, hungry or need their diaper changed,” said Dr. Wright, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. “They’re doing it to communicate because they don’t have any other way. And sometimes they just cry.”

“Giving the child’s caregiver some tools — such as where to place the child in order to have a short break, the child’s favorite toy or distractions, when naptime is or some other routines — may play a part in preventing an abusive situation,” said Dr. Herr, who is also associate professor of pediatrics, University of Louisville School of Medicine.

Download a free sheet that will help you give instructions to your babysitter.

Contributed by Maggie Roetker, Norton Healthcare media relations.