BabysitTers

Summary:  P.A.X.A. Parents are very clear about what is expected of paid babysitters. We recommend that each family put together a comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts designed to keep everyone safe including the babysitter, rather than provide the babysitter and children with a long list of RULES. These do’s and don’ts should be discussed in front of the children—the rules that govern safety should weaved in with positive guidance and recommendations for things to do. For example, mix in your guidance on the innocuous instructions (the food they should eat, emergency contacts, location of first aid kit, etc.) with the safety-related items below.  

Sitter Selection

Parents should interview all potential sitters prior to hiring them. Interviews should be done before the “day of” and questions for sitters should include experience, problem solving and references.

P.A.X.A. Pointer:   It may be politically incorrect, but over 90% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by males, which include teenage boys and adults.  This unfortunate reality means that children are safer with female babysitters.   

Games/Activities

Think of fun and healthy age-appropriate activities for babysitters to do with children and list them for the babysitter (board games, puppet shows, puzzles, dolls/figurines, etc.)

P.A.X.A. Pointer:  No games that include “secrets” like truth or dare.  No massaging or games like “doctor” that require extensive touching or inspecting.  No tickling or silly touching. 

Sports

Encourage age appropriate sports, such as kicking a soccer ball at a park or playing catch in the backyard. 

P.A.X.A. Pointer:  No wrestling, no “martial arts” or gymnastics (where a babysitter would be helping a child do stretches or touching/spotting them as they do moves).      

Visitors/Socializing

Clearly articulate what type of visitors and socialization is acceptable.  For example, if the weather is nice, it might be OK for a neighbor kid to come over and kick a soccer ball in the yard with a child.  But it would not be appropriate for that child to come inside to play. 

P.A.X.A Pointer: Under no circumstances should the babysitter bring over any visitors, particularly boyfriends/girlfriends or family members.  No one should ever “drop by to say hello.”  

Technology: Phones/iPad/Social Media 

Clearly articulate how the children are to use technology and social media—for example, Skype or facetime with Grandma & Grandpa might be OK.  

P.A.X.A Pointer: Neither the child nor the babysitter should be using social media while babysitting.  For babysitters, no taking picture of the kids, posting pictures on Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat and no mentioning that they are babysitting as it might indicate to stalkers, predators or admirers that they are alone with children. 

 TV/Movies

Outline the specific shows that are appropriate for your children.

P.A.X.A. Pointer: No shows that include overt sexuality and/or violence.  Even with older children, avoid emotional movies and dramas that include intimate moments and passion.  Babysitting should be an emotional and sexual-tension free experience.  You don’t want your children discussing the contents of a steamy movie with their babysitter. 

Discipline

Some kids misbehave for babysitters, so it is important to outline how to discipline the child during bad behavior episodes.  For example, putting the child in time out once, twice and then a phone call to the parents can be an effective deterrent to bad behavior.  So is withholding dessert if the child doesn’t eat dinner, etc. 

P.A.X.A. Pointer: No spur of the moment punishments, no physical punishments such as spanking or hitting, etc. No threats or mental mind games.     

Going to the Bathroom

Clearly, the age of the child will dictate how the babysitter should interact or assist with the child going to the bathroom. 

P.A.X.A. Pointer:  We recommend the following approach based on the ages below.

· Infants (Age 0-2): Changing diapers is a part of life when babysitting infants.  Always leave the child in a fresh diaper and specify where and how the infant should be changed. P.A.X.A. recommends counting the diapers left with the child and providing specific throw away instructions for soiled diapers into a freshly changed trash bag or diaper dispenser bag.  This way, if something seems strange when you return home, if the infant’s genitals are swollen and the babysitter reports having to change the diaper six times, you can inspect the trash can or diaper dispenser for evidence.   

· Toddlers (Age 2-3) & Tots (Age 4-5): Toddlers who are going through potty-training are just learning to use the bathroom by themselves.  Tots who already know how to use the toilet sometimes have “accidents.”  If possible, have the child go to the bathroom right before you leave the child with the babysitter.  If that doesn’t work, it should be clearly stated to the babysitter that the goal is to have the children go to the bathroom by themselves and the concept of “privacy” should be reinforced by having the door shut.  For less experienced children, a “door-cracked” policy might make be a good solution.  This is where the sitter stands outside the bathroom, speaking in a reassuring manner through the cracked door, out of the line of sight, but close enough to help if the child requires it.         

· Older Children (Age 6+): Under no circumstances should a babysitter be in the bathroom when an older child is using it.  Make sure to leave plenty of toilet paper on the roll (or within arms-reach) to keep anyone—babysitter included—from having to “call someone for toilet paper.”

Bathing

Older children, who are fully capable of bathing on their own, may take a shower or bath so long as they bring their next change of clothing into the bathroom with them and have total privacy with the door closed.  They should walk into the bathroom fully clothed and walk out of the bathroom fully clothed.   

P.A.X.A Pointer:  Minimize bathing.  Fifty years ago, most kids bathed once or twice a week.  There is no need for infants, toddlers and tots to take a bath before they go to bed.  Simply instruct the babysitter to wash their hands and faces with a damp washcloth.  Parents can bathe them later if they are stinky!

Changing Clothes

Be anticipatory about change of clothes.  For infants, toddlers and tots, recognize that accidents and spills could occur and have a set of replacement clothes out and handy.  Lay out pajamas on the bed so there is no question what is appropriate to sleep in.   

P.A.X.A. Pointer:  For young children old enough to wear underwear, tell the sitter that underwear should be changed only if there is a potty-related-emergency.  It should be clearly stated to the babysitter that the goal is to have the children change their clothes by themselves and the concept of “privacy” should be reinforced by having the door shut.  For less experienced children, a “door-cracked” policy might make be a good solution.  This is where the sitter stands outside the room, speaking in a reassuring manner through the cracked door, out of the line of sight, but close enough to help if the child requires it.        

Bed time

Clearly outline what is expected and the child’s typical bed time routine.  Some children like to listen to a sound machine, some like to be read books.  Some children are so wired and excited to have a baby sitter that they will expend all their energy and fall asleep on the couch while watching a movie. 

P.A.X.A. Pointer: Ideally a sitter who is reading to a child will be sitting in a chair or stool next to the bed.  A less ideal scenario might be sitting cross-legged outside the covers next to the child on the bed.  Little children might want an adult in the room to help them fall asleep and older children might be giggling and goofing around, so we recommend that the sitter sit near the door and wait for them to fall asleep.  Under no circumstances should a babysitter snuggle with the child or lay next to the child.  Also, if the child falls asleep on a couch, the babysitter should just let them stay there until the parent comes home.

Use of Affection

Some babysitters develop strong affection for the children that they watch, particularly over time. This is fundamentally a good thing.  OK touch, like a pat on the pack, fist bumps, holding hands, and piggy back rides (depending on the age of the child) are appropriate uses of affection and can help to solidify healthy relationships.

P.A.X.A. Pointer: Clear boundaries with regards to hugs and kisses and sitting on laps need to be established and reinforced so there's no confusion about what is and isn't appropriate. Younger children need more affirmation, hugs and handholding than older children. If a young child trips and skins her knee, a hug, some patting on the upper back, and band aid is appropriate. In general, P.A.X.A discourages parents from allowing babysitters to kiss their children. Younger children might desire affection or get tired and want to sit on a babysitter's lap. If the parent deems this to be acceptable behavior, the manner in which a child may sit on a lap should be discussed with the babysitter (and taught to the child as part of OK Touch and Not OK Touch). For example, there should be no straddling the babysitter or sitting in the crotch area. The child should sit with their legs closed on the babysitter's thigh.  Sometimes children will get sleepy while watching TV on the couch with a babysitter. The babysitter should be told that it's appropriate for the child to rest their head on their shoulder, but not appropriate for the child to rest their head on their lap or breasts.

After the Babysitter’s Shift

Make sure that it’s clear how the babysitter will be returning to their home in a safe manner

P.A.X.A. Pointer:  Many female babysitters find it uncomfortable to be driven home alone by a man or to walk home by themselves late at night.  Be sensitive to these concerns and consider budgeting for taxi/rideshare transportation if driving or walking is not appropriate.   

playdates

Summary:  P.A.X.A. Parents are very clear what is expected during playdates. We recommend that each family put together a comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts designed to keep everyone safe at playdates, rather than provide a long list of RULES. These do’s and don’ts should be discussed in front of the children at drop off, regardless of whether the children are playing at your house or someone else’s house. The rules that govern safety should be weaved in with recommendations for things to do, allergies, emergency contact information, etc.  

Open Door Policy

Children should play out in the open.  If they are doing an activity in a separate room, a child’s bedroom for instance, the door to that room should be open.

P.A.X.A Pointer: Parent’s bedrooms and the bedrooms of significantly older children should be off limits.    

Who’s in the House? 

Host parents should clearly articulate who will be at their residence during the playdate.

P.A.X.A Pointer: Most importantly, host parents should clearly articulate who is responsible for watching/monitoring the children. It’s not politically correct for us to say this, but be wary of boyfriends and older male relatives who offer to help out with the children—over 90% of child sexual abuse is carried out by men and these men need access to children. 

Who’s Playing with Who? 

Host parents should clearly articulate who is supposed to be playing with who during the playdate.   

P.A.X.A Pointer:  Studies show that a third of child sex abuse occurs between minors, often between children of different age groups. Parents should know if other siblings, cousins or children from the neighborhood will be at the residence and how the addition of extra children will affect parental monitoring/involvement. 

Games/Activities/Sports

The parents should discuss acceptable age-appropriate activities for the children (board games, puppet shows, puzzles, dolls/figurines, playing catch in the backyard etc.).

P.A.X.A. Pointer:  No games that include “secrets” like truth or dare.  No massaging or games like “doctor” that require extensive touching or inspecting. No tickling or silly touching or hiding in closets together. No wrestling, no “martial arts” or gymnastics (where a parent would be helping a child do stretches or touching/spotting them as they do moves).  

Technology: Phones/iPad/Social Media 

Clearly articulate how the children are to use technology and social media—for example, Skype or facetime with another friend might be OK.  

P.A.X.A Pointer: For the most part, children should not be on social media during playdates. For host parents, no posting pictures of the kids on social media, no mentioning that they are watching children as it might indicate to stalkers, predators or admirers that they are alone with children. 

TV/Movies

Outline the specific shows that are appropriate for your children.

PAXA Pointer: No shows that include overt sexuality and/or violence. Even with older children, avoid emotional movies and dramas that include intimate moments and passion.  playdates should be an emotional and sexual-tension free experience. You don’t want your children discussing the contents of a steamy movie in someone’s basement.  

Discipline

Some kids misbehave when they are guests in someone else’s home, so it is important to outline how to discipline the child during bad behavior episodes. For example, putting the child in time out once, twice and then a phone call to the parents can be an effective deterrent to bad behavior. So is withholding dessert if the child doesn’t eat lunch, etc. 

P.A.X.A. Pointer: No spur of the moment punishments, no physical punishments such as spanking or hitting, etc. No threats or mental mind games.     

Going to the Bathroom

The age of the child will dictate how the host parent should interact or assist with the child going to the bathroom. 

P.A.X.A. Pointer:  If possible, have the children go to the bathroom at drop off while both parents are present, to avoid incidents.  If that doesn’t work, it should be clearly stated that the goal is to have the children go to the bathroom by themselves and the concept of “privacy” should be reinforced by having the door shut.

Younger Children:  Young children who already know how to use the toilet sometimes have “accidents.” If possible, have the children go to the bathroom at drop off while both parents are present, to avoid incidents. If that doesn’t work, it should be clearly stated that the goal is to have the children go to the bathroom by themselves and the concept of “privacy” should be reinforced by having the door shut.  For less experienced children, a “door-cracked” policy might make be a good solution. This is where the host parent stands outside the bathroom, and speaks in a reassuring manner through the cracked door, out of the line of sight, but close enough to help if the child requires it.         
Older Children: Under no circumstances should the host parent be in the bathroom when the child is using it. Make sure that there is plenty of toilet paper on the roll (or within arms-reach) so that no one—parent included—needs to “call someone for toilet paper.”

Swimming/Bathing

Sometimes there is a Slip & Slide or a pool or children will do physical activities that might require bathing and changing clothes. Parents should teach young children how to get in and out of a bathing suit before the playdate and empower the child to change clothes in private—like a big kid!  Older children, who are fully capable of bathing on their own, may take a shower or bath so long as they bring their next change of clothing into the bathroom with them and have total privacy with the door closed. They should walk into the bathroom fully clothed and walk out of the bathroom fully clothed.   

P.A.X.A Pointer:  Minimize changing and bathing—particularly bathing. The host parent can provide the children with a damp washcloth to clean up hands and faces. Parents can bathe their own children later if they are stinky!  If changing or bathing can’t be avoided and a young child is having difficulty completing the task, host parents might employ a “door-cracked” policy for young children. This is where the host parent stands outside the room, speaking in a reassuring manner through the cracked door, out of the line of sight, but close enough to help if the child requires it. 

Changing Clothes

Be anticipatory about change of clothes.  For young children, recognize that accidents and spills could occur and have a set of replacement clothes out and handy.     

P.A.X.A. Pointer:  Minimize the changing of clothes. For young children old enough to wear underwear, all parents should agree that underwear should be changed only if there is a potty-related-emergency. It should be clearly stated that the goal is to have the children change their clothes by themselves and the concept of “privacy” should be reinforced by having the door shut. For less experienced children, a “door-cracked” policy might make be a good solution. This is where the host parent stands outside the room, speaking in a reassuring manner through the cracked door, out of the line of sight, but close enough to help if the child requires it. Older children should change and dress in complete privacy.