5 Things to Think About Before Letting Your Older Child Babysit

Posted on by admin | in babysitting

There are plenty of situations when it might make sense to ask your older child to handle babysitting your younger one (or ones). Maybe you aren’t going to be gone that long and just need them to keep an eye on the house while you run an errand or head to the market. Maybe you don’t have the financial resources to find a sitter for the occasion, or maybe you looked for one but came up empty-handed.

It’s important to think about the situation before entrusting your older child to babysit, though. There’s no magic age at which kids become fine for babysitting jobs, and no switch you can flip to give them the necessary tools (both emotional and physical) to succeed. Keep these things in mind before you sign off on letting your older child babysit:

Maturity

Many babysitters start working as young as age 12, but that doesn’t mean that all 12-year-olds are automatically fit for the job. What kind of grades does your child get? How do they get along with peers? With teachers? With you? Maturity level is a huge indicator of whether your child will be able to babysit. The Red Cross offers a babysitting training course designed for students 11 and up that covers the basics of babysitter childcare, including safety, mediation and how to handle an emergency. Courses like that can be a good indicator of your child’s maturity level, so use them as a measuring stick before you let them babysit.

Attitude

This is a huge one, too, and though it’s tied to maturity, it’s definitely its own concept. In short, how does your child interact with others? Are they positive, reliable, calm, upbeat, friendly? Or, when given a chance to run things, do they become combative, panicky, unsure of themselves? Their overall attitude is going to determine, to a large degree, how successful they are at babysitting. It goes double since they’ll be looking after their own siblings, which means they’ll be in charge of caring for someone they ordinarily just live with. That’s a serious advancement, and some kids don’t have the attitude to pull it off.

Dependability

You should also examine how your older child responds to crises and other demanding situations that a babysitter might face. When it comes to run-of-the-mill stuff, how much are you able to rely on the older child? Do they complete their chores, help out around the house, turn in their homework, and follow through on their promises? Or do they instead flake out on commitments and ignore responsibilities until you cajole them into obedience? You have no idea what kind of situations they might face while babysitting — and they might never have to deal with anything more stressful than corralling younger kids for bath time — but they have to be the kind of person who can respond capably in emergency situations. Courses like the Red Cross training program are great for this, since they give younger students a look at emergency responses.

Desire

Seriously: Does your child want to babysit? Sure, you can press them into service and make it worth their while, but a good way to ensure success is for them to want to help out, at least a little. Talk to them about the benefits of taking on more responsibility, and how babysitting isn’t just a way to help you out, but also a way to become a more helpful part of the overall household. If the desire isn’t there, you might have a hard time motivating them with other perks.

Trial Runs

If at all possible, don’t just dive into the babysitting pool. Have your older child assist you on trial runs that give them the lay of the land and help them see what kinds of routines they’d need to manage, such as playtime, basic meal preparation and communicating with the younger kids. Have your older child at your side and walk them through the steps. On one level, they already know this stuff because they’re living through it, but it’ll be a lot different when they’re being trained as a potential babysitter.

If there’s one big point to keep in mind, it’s probably this: take your time. The more time you devote to training your child and showing them the ropes of babysitting, the better they’ll be, and the easier your life will be.

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