Is Your Child Ready to Babysit?
7 questions to ask when deciding if your child is ready to babysit.
It's a rite of passage when your children get to be old enough to take care of another child. But when is the right age to start?
The proper age for babysitting depends on a variety of factors, from local laws to maturity level. But how old your child is when she first has other children under her care depends largely on her personality and how ready she feels to handle this newfound responsibility.
Here are a seven questions to ask yourself before you present this possibility to your growing-up-too-fast child.
And if you're on the fence about whether you child should care for kids at all, here are 10 Reasons Your Teenager Should Babysit.
- Is My Child Legally Old Enough?
There are usually state minimum age requirements to leave children home alone with siblings or other children -- usually 12.
"Certainly at 12, most children have the ability to focus on the needs of small children to keep them entertained, safe and happy, feed them simple meals and call for help if needed," says Pamela Layton McMurtry, mother of seven. Of course, laws vary by state, so check the rules where you live before considering anything else.
- Has My Child Had Any Practice?
Babysitting isn't something that should be sprung on a child out of nowhere. She should express interest in it, first of all. And second, she needs to have had some experience taking care of other children before you even consider leaving her home alone in charge of other kids. Has she watched her baby brother or sister while you made dinner? Does she actively care for siblings without asking? Has she been a mother's helper?
If you feel your child is ready, but needs more experience, you can always do a trial run. "It is better to begin leaving them alone in small increments of time such as running quick errands to the store and calling while you are gone," suggests Shannon Battle, clinical director of Family Services of America. Then, once you get back, "talk with the children and get their feedback."
- Has My Child Taken Babysitter or First Aid Classes?
If your child has had a lot of hands-on experience caring for siblings, a babysitter class might not be necessary. However, first aid definitely is. Just as all parents should have basic first aid and CPR knowledge, so too should your child if he will have other children in his charge.
Here are 8 Babysitting Training Courses that may help.
- Have We Discussed Proper Safety and Care?
Beyond the classroom environment, it's vital that you reinforce safety protocols at home. Your child should know when to call for help in case of an emergency. She should know how to change diapers and feed young children. And she needs to know how to handle boo-boos, too.
Here are 6 tips for how employers should talk to sitters about safety. Use them as a guideline for your own discussions with your child. Ask lots of "what if" scenarios, to make sure your child is ready for anything.
- Is My Child Focused Enough?
This comes back to the whole maturity thing. You need to be confident that your child is focused enough to remember all the tasks that must be completed while the adults are away. Leaving a list behind is helpful, of course, but she needs to possess the focus to stick to the schedule. It would stink for parents to come home to find their child is still awake, the house is a mess and no one ate dinner!
- Has My Child Ever Been Home Alone?
Before caring for another child becomes an option, your child needs to have been home alone on more than one occasion and feel comfortable doing so. He needs to be able to take care of himself to some degree, including preparing simple meals or following simple heating instructions.
- Is My Child Excited About Babysitting?
Your child should be excited about the prospect of babysitting. Plain and simple. If she's not, now might not be the time. Or, perhaps, babysitting just isn't something that interests her. And that's perfectly okay.
When all else fails, use what you know of your child -- and what she tells you -- as your guide.
And once you determine your child is ready, here's How to Get a Teen Babysitting Job.
Brenda Barron is a writer from southern California. When she's not typing at a frantic pace, she's spending time with her family, knitting, or watching Doctor Who, often all at once. Find out more about her at Digital Inkwell.