For many young girls, and even boys, babysitting makes a great first-job experience. Taking care of siblings or young neighbors and relatives helps teens learn patience, responsibility and flexibility while at the same time encouraging strong money management skills.
It’s best to begin with young siblings or close neighbors who already know the sitter. Beginners should take their first jobs with the charges’ parent or guardian close by, working outside, or in an in-home office. Make sure the children understand that the sitter is in charge and they should take their problems to him or her first. This gives a beginner an idea of what kinds of issues might come up when they start on their own.
Many cities offer baby-sitting or child-care classes that cover crises management. The Jackson Madison County General hospital offers a monthly class on basic child-care and babysitting. The national Safe Sitter organization was created to ensure young sitters know CPR and first aid. Check out Safesitter.org for information on possible problem-solving and tips for new sitters.
Before the client leaves, they should tell their children, in front of the sitter, that he or she is in charge and should get the same respect the parent does. This can ward off the “You’re not my mother!” come-back later. Also, make sure to get all the possible emergency information from the clients before they leave: cell, pager, work and neighbor phone numbers, local poison control, etc. Do a walk-through of the house and yard to be clear about the house-rules and off-limits areas.
Young sitters should never take a job unless they and their parents know the family. Clients have no problem checking references on a person who will take care of their children and the sitter shouldn’t hesitate to check references on any family they are not familiar with. Talk to your teen about potential problem situations and how to avoid them, like a request for an overnight job or a client who consistently arrives home late or inebriated.
Set Up A Password
This is a good idea for any situation, but is essential for young sitters. Pick a password or phrase and tell all emergency contacts your child would call if you were not available. For example, let’s say your 14-year-old daughter is babysitting a new family and feels uncomfortable with the presence of a much older sibling, a creepy neighbor or if the client who is supposed to bring her home arrives drunk.
She may be unable to make a private phone-call, but a simple, “Hey Mom – I forgot to feed the cat today.” will only sound unusual if you know your family does not have a cat. That’s your cue to immediately pick her up without triggering a potentially hazardous situation.
Take a Kid-Kit
Anne, Mallory and the rest of the Babysitter’s Club may have gotten themselves into a few scrapes, but they also knew one basic principle: other people’s toys are more fun than your own. In the series, each character carried a Kid-Kit to their babysitting jobs. The decorated box contained small, inexpensive, age-appropriate toys for each charge: coloring books, sparkly crayons, reading books, stuffed animals. This is especially a good idea for charges who aren’t used to being away from Mom and Dad yet. A new toy can soften the fright of staying with a new face.
Babysitting will not be easy, but it should be fun. Be creative and give the children some fun experiences with a new friend.