- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 16, 2003

Before taking a job:

• Make sure to ask your parents if you may sit on that day.

• Don't be afraid to turn down any job in which you have a problem with the number of children, the age of the children, the behavior of the children or the length of time you are asked to sit.

• Ask friends what they charge to baby-sit. It is OK to set your rates ahead of time. Start out at the low end of the range for your area.

• Arrange a safety signal for your parents so they can come get you if you do not feel safe.

• Let your parents know your employer's name, the phone number and when you will return.

When you arrive:

• Arrive early, if possible, to meet the children and go over their routines and instructions with the parents.

• Make sure you know the basics when you care for a child. Write down each child's name and what you need to know for bedtime, eating, activities and toileting. (Safe Sitter calls this BEAT to make it easy to remember).

• Ask parents if there are particular activities the children like. Ask if anything is off-limits to them (such as particular TV shows). Ask if the child has a particular comfort object or way to be comforted. Ask if it is OK to play outside.

• Ask parents to give you a tour of the house so you know where phones, first-aid supplies and emergency numbers are.

• Ask parents if it is OK for you to use the phone or computer or have something to eat after the children are asleep.

When you are sitting:

• Remember ways to make problem behavior disappear. That includes distracting a child, giving the child choices, making up a game, bargaining (such as "When you put on your pajamas, then we'll play Candyland") or taking a break.

• Follow parents' rules for bedtime. Let children know when bedtime is nearing. Always place infants to sleep on their backs.

• Involve the children in coloring, building with Legos, playing board games or doing puzzles.

• Don't fall asleep.

• Keep the house in good shape, such was washing the dishes you used or putting away children's toys.

• Learn the developmental stages of children so you can understand what toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children like to do. That also will help you understand how to manage problem behavior.

• Never have your friends visit unless you ask ahead of time.

• Leave a note or other written record for the parents. They will like to know how the evening went.

Sources: Safe Sitter, American Red Cross, National Safe Kids Campaign, Inova HealthSource

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