How to Tell if a Teenager is Mature Enough to Babysit

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Babysitting is a time-honored tradition among teenagers looking for a way to earn some extra money while selecting their own schedules, rather than being forced to adhere to one made each week by a manager. If your teen has recently approached you with a desire to begin her career as a babysitter, there are some things you’ll need to take into consideration when determining whether she’s mature and responsible enough to be charged with the very important task of caring for dependent children. Before giving your teen the green light to start searching for babysitting clients, you should consider the following points.

  • How Much Experience Does She Have? – If you have younger children that your teenager has been in charge of caring for, how did she handle that responsibility? In the case of only children, it’s important to consider any prior experience she’s had with children; if her contact with little ones has been limited, it might be wise to help her spend some time in a supervised childcare setting, such as volunteering in the nursery of your place of worship, before allowing her to strike out on her own.
  • Has She Been CPR and First Aid Certified? – Regardless of age and experience level, any childcare provider will need to obtain CPR and first aid certification in order to be as prepared as possible in the event of an emergency. While these certifications aren’t required by law, most parents will not consider your teen mature enough or competent enough to care for their children without them.
  • What are the Laws in Your Area? – State and local laws regarding the age requirements of a babysitter and restrictions on the number of children that a teenager can legally be responsible for can vary significantly from one location to another. Be sure that your teen is old enough to be legally eligible to act as a childcare provider before granting your permission to look for clients.
  • Does She Understand the Dangers of Food Allergies? – Severe food allergies have the very real potential of causing death if a child is exposed to something he’s allergic to, meaning your teen needs to have a clear and realistic understanding of food allergies and sensitivities and how dangerous they can be.
  • Is She Able to Care for a Child with Special Needs? – Before your teen accepts a job caring for a child with special needs, it’s important for you to evaluate her ability to do so competently, and you should discuss the matter with her thoroughly to determine whether or not she’s up to the task of providing top-notch care for a special needs kid.
  • Is She Usually Punctual and Dependable? – A teen that’s dependable and makes an effort to be on time in other areas of her life will likely extend those character traits to her new career as a babysitter, just as those who are less dependable may begin to slack off in time.
  • Does She Have any Marked Behavioral Problems? – Putting a troubled teen in charge of children in a situation with no adult supervision is just asking for trouble, so it’s important that you’re honest with yourself about her behavior before allowing her to do so. Breaking house rules on the job can put your child and her charges in danger, and is a strong possibility if she has a history of behavioral issues or acting out.
  • How Developed are Her Time Management Skills? – Taking on a job, even an irregularly scheduled one, can interfere with your teen’s academic performance and extracurricular activities if she’s still developing her time management skills. Kids that struggle to maintain their current schedules may not be mature enough to add more responsibilities to it.
  • Does She Know Her Way Around the Kitchen? – Part of caring for children is feeding them, something your teen may not be mature or experienced enough to do if she’s not familiar with basic meal preparation. Taking the time to work with your daughter to develop these skills will serve her well in the future, as well as helping her to overcome an obstacle on the path to employment, so consider a brief round of lessons in kitchen basics and safety before sending her on her first babysitting assignment.
  • Trust Your Instincts – In the end, no one knows your child and her abilities as well as you do. Even if she’s dependable, reasonably experienced in the kitchen, and CPR certified, you may still have the nagging feeling that she simply isn’t ready for the huge responsibility of keeping a child safe. In such cases, it’s imperative that you trust your instincts.

Many community centers offer babysitting classes for interested teenagers, which can be an informative and exciting way for your child to hone her skills and obtain the training she needs to be a more prepared, experienced sitter. Consider enrolling her in one of these courses if she’s beginning to express an interest in babysitting in order to make the transition from unemployed teen to seasoned sitter easier for her.

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