Like delivering the newspaper, babysitting is often a child’s first paying job. The freedom, independence, and potential for earning money make this milestone a very exciting period in a young person’s life. But along with that excitement and earning potential comes a lot of responsibility.
Your child in a babysitting role is accountable for keeping everyone safe. It’s a big job that has many responsibilities, and it’s imperative that both of you feel comfortable with each gig. Whether your child has been babysitting for a while or is just starting out, here are four important safety guidelines:
- Review all job offers. Make sure your child asks for your permission before accepting a babysitting request. This will help ensure that your child does not take on more responsibility – like numbers and ages of kids – than he or she can handle.
- Keep to families with whom you’re familiar. Set a rule that your child can only babysit for families that you personally know or have had the time to review their references.
- Create a safety signal. Agree to a statement like “please pick me up now” that alerts you to pick your child immediately with no questions asked.
- Debrief after each job. Take time to ask your child how each babysitting job went. Praise the ones that went well and encourage your child to say “no” to any that made him or her uncomfortable.
I also recommend attending a Safe Sitter course for those just starting out or those that have been sitting for a while but would like to feel more confident. The course is recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and is a fantastic resource for learning not only how to care for children, but how to handle emergencies. I teach an official Safe Sitter course at Cincinnati Children’s, covering topics such as how to rescue a choking infant or child, administering First Aid and CPR, and safety for both the sitter and child. For more information about what your child will learn from the course, and to find one near you, visit their website.
Many parents ask me how to know whether or not their child is ready to babysit. It’s a difficult question, and I think it all depends on how mature you think he or she is. You should think about whether or not he or she would be comfortable at someone else’s house at night without adults around. Or if your child handles himself or herself well at your house when the phone rings or when someone knocks on the front door. The Safe Sitter’s website has more similar questions to ask yourself to help gauge whether or not you think your child is ready to babysit.
Attending the course and following the four guidelines will help both you and your child feel more comfortable and confident about potential babysitting opportunities. This is an exciting time for your child, and babysitting offers the opportunity to not only earn money and have fun, but learn a few things along the way. Like knowing what to do in an emergency and how to keep everyone safe. And taking the opportunity to teach your child to treat babysitting like a business – by arriving on time, dressing appropriately, and being reliable – will help him develop skills he will use for the rest of his life.
Editor’s note: The Safe Sitter course is offered at Cincinnati Children’s through the Center for Professional Excellence and Education. For questions, or to register, call 513-636-2749.