Is Your Tween Ready to Babysit?
The moment Bebe heard that our local Red Cross offers babysitting courses for kids who are 11 years old and up, she’s practically been chomping at the bit to go.
That was two years ago. Now that she’s old enough for the class she’s also started asking when I will let her babysit instead of her older brother. It’s a question that I admit I have been thinking about for a few months now.
Being the only girl, she does have some “mother’s helper” tendencies in her. Ever since Peanut was born, she’s all about helping; whether it was playing with him or feeding… or God forbid, a diaper change. (Don’t ask. It wasn’t pretty).
Now that she’s older (and Peanut is less breakable), I’ve been entertaining the idea of letting her be in charge. There have been times when I’ve had to pick up her big brother from an event at school or a friend's house and I don’t think it’s totally necessary to drag everyone out for a five minute trip, especially when the weather has been dreary, cold and dismal.
I certainly don’t want to be flip about giving her this new found independence and responsibility. I thought back to how old I was and it seems to me I was around 11 or 12. I had my grandmother with me every day granted and a wonderful neighbor (who I babysat for once I was a little older) but for one summer between elementary school and middle school I was in charge of three younger siblings. It was fun, but it was stressful so I want to make sure Bebe is totally ready to be a good babysitter. Not just for me but for any family she would babysit for as well.
If you think it’s time to let your tween to start babysitting (or they’ve been begging as is my case), look for these cues to ensure their readiness:
Miss Independent – Your tween should be okay with staying home on their own long before you put them in charge of younger siblings or other people’s children. You can help them ease into being on their own by giving them short time increments where you run an errand. 15 minutes is a good starting point and then gradually increase the time you’re away. Before you know it, your tween will be begging you to run an errand or take some “you time” so they can have some time on their own as well!
Emotionally Mature – There are plenty of tweens and teens out there who aren’t emotionally mature to handle watching other people’s children. It’s important that your tween knows how to handle themself in a stressful situation (crying baby for the whole time parents are gone??) or what to do in case of an emergency. Emotional maturity is so much more important than physical maturity. Yes, age does matter but the babysitter who can keep a cool head and use common sense over panicking or stressing when the going gets tough will have a great future as a babysitter and a full calendar.
Learn the babysitter basics – Before you let your tween in charge of young children it’s important that they know how to do things like feed a baby, change a diaper, hold a baby, and calm a crying baby or child. If your tween will be in charge of their siblings on the first go round, it’s possible that they’ve seen you do these things and even helped but it’s a much different experience for them to have to do it on their own. If you don’t have younger children talk to some friends who do have young children or babies and would be willing to show your tween the ropes. Who knows? That might be the way they line up their first babysitting gig!
Flying Solo, Sort Of - Along those same lines, once your tween has mastered the basics, it’s time to take some baby steps into babysitting on their own. This is where you’ll need the help of some friends if you don’t have younger children. Help your tween find opportunities to be a Mother’s Helper. What this means is that your tween can spend some time babysitting while mom or dad are home (maybe mom needs a much needed nap?). It gives your tween the chance to try out their babysitter shoes and still have the parents close by to help handle any problems or just offer reassurance or guidance.
Of course before you set your tween out on their own to babysit you should, for their own health and the health of children they will babysitting, make sure they are up to date on their immunizations. Be sure to have your tween get certified in CPR as well. Like our Red Cross it could be offered with the class but if you don’t have those options then you’ll need to seek out a first aid and CPR class for your tween to attend.
I asked some friends on Twitter what age they thought is acceptable for babysitting and most agree that by 12 or 13 kids are ready to babysit. Make sure to find out if there are any state laws on babysitting in your state as well. Many don’t but a few states have very vague laws about it, including the age a tween or teen can babysit. In the meantime, the above suggestions are definitely things you can do to make sure the transition to becoming a babysitter is smooth and your tween is comfortable in their new role.
Is your tween or teen babysitting? How did you help them prepare?