Parents who plan to party down this New Year’s Eve are urged to make smart choices for their young child’s care while being aware of the dangers that lurk around unsupervised children.
Children may not be cared for as well as they should be and may even be at risk of being abused if appropriate care is not given.
“While parents are partying and having a really good time children may not be cared for as well as they should be. “They may feel sad about being left with a stranger and put in a position at high-risk of being abused”, Dr Alexander, national co-ordinator of ChildForum, says.
There will be people whose motivation will be to ‘cash in’ on the night while others will see this as an opportunity to have access to an unsupervised young child.
Social networking and job sites suggest this year that there is no shortage of babysitters if the money offered is right, and parents are also turning to childcare agencies and to family relatives if their regular babysitter is not available.
Charges are higher with the current hourly rate at $20 and more in the main centres such as Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington and the main holiday hot spots.
A childcare agency normally does basic reference and police checks on the babysitter and this can give parents some peace of mind. A young child can, however, find it stressful to be left with a complete stranger and be asked to trust that person.
A sleep-over at the house of family relatives or grandparents is a popular and no-cost option for many families, but it is also not without some risks as young children are more likely to be abused by someone known to them.
Dr Alexander says parents can take five precautions to lessen risks and make New Year’s Eve a safe time for children:
- When inviting other adults to your house for a party, keep a baby sound monitor on in your child’s room so you can hear if someone is moving around or making noises.
- Teach your child that certain parts of his/her body are private, and what to do and how to say ‘NO’ if someone tries to touch them in inappropriate ways.
- Check with your child before leaving if he/she is pleased to be with the babysitter, family friend or relative. Trust your child’s instincts. Never force your child to stay with someone he/she does not like.
- Have your child already bathed and changed in pyjamas before dropping off to a friend’s house for a sleep-over or before the babysitter arrives. Tell the babysitter not to put your child to bed but to let your child stay up and sleep on the couch until you arrive home. Also instruct the babysitter not to discipline your child but to phone you if there is any problem.
- Discuss with your babysitter what to do if you do not arrive home as planned and ensure she has emergency contact numbers.
Alternatively, parents who want to party this New Year’s Eve could consider planning a family-friendly party at home by inviting other families.
“Children can bring sleeping bags and pyjamas and have lots of fun playing and partying together, while the adults enjoy themselves knowing their children are safe and with them.”