Babysitting can be a great opportunity for your preteen to gain work experience while earning extra money, but the task comes with responsibilities. Although you may feel your preteen is trustworthy, he or she might not be familiar with childcare and how to appropriately handle emergency situations. According to a study presented to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 40 percent of babysitters between 11 and 13 years of age have left a child unattended, while 20 percent opened doors to strangers.
A Guide to Good Babysitting
If you’re considering letting your preteen begin babysitting, be sure to give him or her a prep talk before the first day.
• Follow rules. Explain to your preteen that not every household is the same and that each family may have different rules for their children about television, computer usage, visitors and bedtime. Have your preteen ask parents lots of questions about house rules to build trust and ensure understanding.
• Show authority. Some kids will try to get their way, especially around caregivers they don’t know. Young children might misbehave more than normal, while older kids may say things like, “Dad said we could stay up late.” While your preteen may feel inclined to be the “cool” babysitter and let things slide, instruct him or her to stand firm to rules parents have laid out to prevent unforeseen perils.
• Stay alert. A responsible babysitter should know the parent’s working phone numbers, emergency numbers (such as 911 and the Poison Control Center hotline), and where the child’s medications and treatments are in case a medical event happens.
Reducing the Stress of Emergencies
Emergencies are scary and not just for the child experiencing it. A nervous preteen babysitter might panic and freeze up when such an event occurs. While it isn’t likely that an emergency will happen, have your preteen ask the child’s parents to fill out a consent-to-treat form just to be on the safe side.
This form authorizes caregivers to provide medical professionals with detailed information about the child, such as his or her medications, allergies, current health conditions, and personal information—alleviating any confusion and stress your preteen may have when taking on this new responsibility.
Click here to have your preteen print out a consent-to-treat form to give to parents before babysitting. For other ideas about raising a responsible preteen, search “Preteen” above.
This article was reviewed by Mitchell J. Goldman, DO, FAAEM, FAAP, medical director, Hilbert Pediatric ED, medical director, outpatient pediatric sedation services, Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent.