For many young teens, babysitting is a rite of passage from childhood to adolescence. It provides them an opportunity to earn money, develop responsibility and grow career skills like setting schedules, salary negotiations and money management. As a parent of two teen girls and a pediatric provider, parents often ask me, how do I know when my child is ready for this important responsibility?
While Florida has no law for a minimum age to babysit, most experts say age 12 is a good age to consider light babysitting responsibility such as an hour or so while parents run an errand. However, there are several other factors to consider before allowing your child to care for siblings or other children.
Emotional maturity. Babysitting readiness depends a lot on your child’s emotional maturity. To assess your child’s emotional maturity, ask yourself some of the following questions:
- Does my child think through a situation and choose how to handle it in the best way possible?
- Does my child follow directions and rules?
- Does my child willingly care for younger siblings, family or neighbor children during gatherings?
- Does my child meet academic and home responsibilities?
- Does my child recognize others’ needs as well as their own?
Talk about it. When your child expresses an interest in babysitting it is important to discuss the expectations required from a babysitter. Ask them to share what they think a good babysitter is responsible for and how they may handle a situation such as a child not listening or getting upset. Their responses will provide you with a good sense of their readiness.
Safety. Babysitting can be super fun, but it is also a serious responsibility. A babysitter’s number one priority is safety which means protecting children from possible dangers such as falls, choking hazards, food allergies, chemicals, drowning, and strangers. This requires constant supervision and environmental scanning for potential hazards. Ask yourself:
- Does my child have the focus needed to keep a child safe?
- Does my child know what to do in an emergency?
Preparation. To ensure your child fully understands the responsibilities required to be a babysitter, consider signing them up for a babysitting class. There are several options including NCH’s in-person Safe Sitter Class® and The American Red Cross’ online Babysitting Basics classes. The courses teach young teens how to care for infants and children, what to do in an emergency, how to recognize and handle certain behavior and even how to start a babysitting business.
Additionally, your teen should enroll in a first aid and CPR class. During these valuable courses, your child will learn how to provide first aid care and administer CPR. Together these classes will help give them confidence as a babysitter to make decisions, resolve problems and handle emergencies.
More time. It is important to remember, all children develop at different levels and if you determine your child is not ready to take on the full responsibility of babysitting at this time there are ways you can help them prepare.
For instance, let friends and family know your child is interested in being a parent’s helper. A parent’s helper watches over kids while a parent is present. Sometimes this can be working alongside the parent to watch the kids during an errand or an afternoon at the park or it can be more independent where the parent is focused on a project as your teen cares for the children. Working as a parent’s helper is an excellent way for a teen to strengthen their skills while under the guidance of an adult.
Research! There are tons of excellent resources available on the internet about babysitting from preparedness tips on how to create a family questionnaire that includes important info such as the parent’s phone numbers, children’s allergies, the house address and bedtime routines to general tips on safety such as keeping doors locked, outside lights on, never leaving kids alone in a tub and knowing exists.
As a parent, you know being responsible for the safety of a child is a tremendous responsibility. Allowing your teen to babysit is not a decision to be made lightly and there is no one-size-fits-all-determining factor for babysitting readiness. However, helping your child ease into the process with honest conversations, babysitting classes and monitored parent helper opportunities is one of the best ways to support their preparedness.
Celebrating 45 years of care, Healthcare Network provides quality primary care services for children and adults in locations throughout Collier County. To learn more or make an appointment, please call 239.658.3000 or visit HealthcareSWFL.org.