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Ready to babysit?

Signs your child can care for others.

Article Author: Juice Staff

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Few things make your precious child look like a little grownup so much as babysitting. The well-being of another living, breathing soul is literally in their hands.

The common teen rite of passage comes with real adult responsibilities, though. If you want your child’s first experience to look more like “Babysitter’s Club” than “Adventures in Babysitting,” be sure you’re setting him or her up for success.

Sizing up your child’s inner adult

There’s no magic age for a child to be ready to babysit, said Kathleen Hugo, RN, women’s resource coordinator at Baptist Health and leader of Baptist’s Safe Sitter® class, which prepares students in grades 6-8 for babysitting.

“The ballpark age to begin is 12 years old,” she said. “But for some children, it can be better to wait until they’re as old as 15.”

To help you decide, here are some questions to consider:

  • Is your child interested in babysitting? Has he or she expressed a desire to babysit? If so, why? Think about whether your child really likes being around little ones, or if he or she simply wants to make some money.
  • What’s your child’s maturity level? Pre-teens and teenagers who want to babysit need to be able to handle responsibilities without oversight. Look at whether your child finishes his or her homework independently or if he or she gets up and ready for school the next morning without help. If your child has chores, does he or she do them without being asked over and over again?

Ramping up responsibility

All babysitting jobs are not equally demanding. If you’re not sure how ready your child is, consider a mother's helper job instead. This is a situation in which the mother is home, but in another room or doing other tasks. Your child will be the watchful, attentive “adult” looking out for the little one.

“The parent can watch how your son or daughter interacts with their child,” said Hugo. “They see the decisions the helper makes.”

When your child graduates to his or her first solo babysitting job, be sure you’re on call in case he or she needs help. A 15-minute drive is close enough to lend support. An hour’s drive is probably not.

Checklist for babysitters

Wouldn’t it be great if parents hiring a sitter could tick off a list of job requirements from their babysitter’s resume? It’s not that simple.

Hiring parents need to think like job recruiters, Hugo said. Make sure the babysitter you’re considering is appropriate for your needs. For example, in their first two years on the job, your sitter shouldn't babysit a child under 6 months of age, Hugo cautioned.

“That age group is entirely dependent on the sitter,” she said. “It’s too much responsibility for someone who is just starting out.”

Here are Hugo’s other tips for parents who are hiring:

  • Ask your babysitter whether it’s OK to call other families they’ve worked for. This will help you find out more about his or her behavior on the job.
  • Have a conversation with your sitter ahead of time. Does he or she seem polite and conscientious? Mature and dependable?
  • Ask whether your job-seeker has taken a babysitting class.

Classes can teach sitters skills such as how to be safe at home, what to do in an emergency, and how a child’s care needs will be different depending on age.

“We’ve had children come to us and say, ‘I wanted to babysit for the neighbors, and they told me I need to take the course,’” said Hugo. “We’ve even had families who paid for their sitters’ course.”

Baptist Health offers Safe Sitters® classes each year. Designed for children in 6th to 8th grade, this national program was created by an ER doctor to keep both the babysitter and the kid(s) they're watching safe when home alone. Click here to see upcoming classes or call the Women’s Resource Center at 904.202.2229 if you have questions.

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