Part of being a responsible babysitter is knowing when and where to reach out for help. Naturally, if little Justin throws a tantrum because you won't let him eat a peanut butter bar, that's easy enough to handle on your own. But what if you think he ate that peanut butter bar and you know he has a nut allergy? That's when it's time to call a parent.

Who to Call First

In general, you want to call a child's parents first when you need help. But different parents do things differently, so ask the parents what they prefer.

There are exceptions to the call-a-parent-first rule. In a real emergency where seconds count, like if a child is badly injured, has stopped breathing, or isn't responding to you, dial 911 first and then call the parents. (Don't panic, though, these things hardly ever happen on babysitting jobs!)

How to Reach a Parent

Before the parents leave, get the following numbers:

  • a cell phone or beeper number (if they have one)
  • the number for the place where the parents will be. Don't just get a location, such as an employer or restaurant name. Ask the parents to provide a specific phone number.

Emergency Numbers

Ask the parents to post a list of emergency numbers next to the phone or on the fridge. Obviously, 911 is the first call to make in case of fire or other emergency. But not all emergencies demand a 911 response. So ask the parents to post the following numbers:

  • the national poison control number: 1-800-222-1222
  • a phone number for the children's doctor (parents usually want you to call them before calling the doctor — and if it's an emergency, you'll want to dial 911 first)
  • phone numbers for a few trusted neighbors
  • phone numbers for any relatives or close friends who live in the area

If you don't see any of these numbers, ask.  

If an emergency comes up, it's not a reflection on you and your babysitting skills — but how well you handle an emergency is. Calling for help is the right thing to do, so don't be afraid to do so. Parents have been around kids long enough to understand that it's impossible to avoid mishaps all the time!

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: June 2010

Related Resources