Maturity and safety are paramount
Your child comes to you and says, “Mom, I want more responsibility. I want a job.” Your child may be only 12 years old, but might be feeling ready to spread his or her wings a bit. The idea of babysitting comes up, but you are hesitant to say yes before you think about it more. How do you know that your child is ready for this responsibility? And how should you proceed?
What’s more important—age, or maturity?
When it comes to babysitting, maturity needs to be your first priority. Age is, of course, a factor, but you want to make sure your child is going to be able to make good choices. You will want to check with your state minimum as to the legal age requirements, especially if your child is asking to babysit for other families. In many places, the minimum age is 12.
- Does your child show general maturity inside and outside the home regarding safety?
- Is your child able to concentrate on and finish a task from start to finish without help?
- Does your child demonstrate a calm demeanor around other children?
- Is your child able to resolve conflict with friends or siblings without hitting or other physical aggression?
- Can your child follow directions?
If you have answered yes to most or all of those questions, chances are your child is ready; otherwise, you may want to wait until your child can improve in those areas before moving forward with babysitting or other jobs.
Does my child need some practice?
Before you leave your child in charge for an entire night, think about trying out some practice situations. If you have younger children (or friends who do), you can start by leaving them in your child’s care for a short time with instructions and stay nearby. Has your child actively cared for siblings without you asking? Offered to help out and look after your friends’ children when they come to visit? Many children love to be a “mother’s helper,” and it grooms them for their upcoming role as a babysitter.
What about babysitting and/or first-aid classes?
Depending on how much active care your child has had with children, he or she may not need to take a babysitting course. First-aid classes are a must. If you haven’t taken one in a while, you may want to take the class together. Basic first-aid and CPR knowledge is necessary for anyone taking care of a child.
What do I need to discuss with my child before any babysitting?
It’s imperative that you reinforce any classes your child may take with discussion. This checklist can be used as a guide to make sure your child has all the necessary tools in case an emergency—big or small—may arise.
- Phone numbers
- The children’s doctor’s office
- Your cell phone and any alternate phone numbers
- The cell phone and any alternate phone numbers of the children’s parents
- How to change a diaper
- Feeding babies and young children
- Preparing simple meals (teach your child a few easy meals that can be served with basic ingredients)
- What to do if a child gets a cut or scrape
- Where do you or the family keep the first-aid materials?
- How do you stop the bleeding?
- When do you call a parent, a doctor, or 911?
- Bedtime, naps, and protocol
- Rules in the house
- Any special instructions to follow during the babysitting hours
Beyond basic safety, it can be good to talk through “What if?” scenarios to make sure your child is ready.
Preparing for a full night of babysitting
As a parent, you have enough to do on a daily basis just getting through the day without coming home to a big mess and finding all your children awake. Help your child find confidence in his or her new role. Let your child take the reins a few times while you are home and “walk” him or her through the process of making a meal, cleaning up, bedtime routines, and more. You may want to start out by allowing your child to take care of only children who are already in bed for the night. It is an easier and a more manageable situation to start with, and, after some time, gradually add more responsibility to the roster. Sticking to a schedule is hard for any parent, let alone a child. It’s important to make sure you’re not coming home to a disaster or worse, other parents coming home to find out their child is still awake and the house is a mess.
Giving up some control
It can be hard to let go of wanting to hold the cushion underneath our children. We want to make sure they are happy, safe, and secure. You should feel confident you are making a good decision to let your child start to work or help out with babysitting. You are the best role model your child will have. Encourage your child to “shadow” you at home and take on more responsibility. You will be surprised how eager he or she will be to help out and gain your respect. Let your child make some decisions about what to eat for dinner and help out with other things you need to do during the day. Wouldn’t you like a short break while your child cooks up a favorite meal? Sit down and smile, knowing you have been raising a great kid.
Rebecca Cherry is an accomplished musician, writer, and creative seeker. She is enjoying her new role as a Solo Mom to her baby girl. You can follow her on Twitter at @CherryRebecca and Facebook at Rebecca Cherry.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.