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Babysitter in the Making

How parents can help prepare their tween or teen to successfully take care of other young kids

My 14-year-old daughter is ready. To earn the big bucks, that is. And all she has to do is play with some kids for a few hours. In her words, "How tough can that be, Mom?" We're talking about babysitting of course, and Allison, my daughter, wants in on the fun – and money.

But she, and others like her, has a few things to learn – namely, that with the payment comes a whole lot of responsibility. Here are three sources to help your teen or tween become a super sitter.

Babysitting courses

These are a great way to get teens acclimated to the responsibility of babysitting. Classes aren't only taught by a real certified instructor; they're also filled with kids your child's own age. That means she or he can learn (and have some fun?) together. Here are three places where you may find a course.

  • American Red Cross. For ages 11-15, the Babysitter's Training Course includes information on interviewing, age-appropriate toys and games, bedtime, diapering and first aid. To find a class in your area, simply enter your ZIP code in on the right side of the home page.
  • Safe Sitter. For ages 11-13, this class teaches adolescent babysitters how to handle crises, keep their charges secure, and nurture and guide young kids. (Find a class in your area.)
  • Community education classes. Browse your local community education's catalog. Many offer babysitting courses.

Internet

The Web's a trove of useful babysitting information. Here are some good sites to get your child thinking about being prepared for his or her new duties.

  • University of Illinois Extension. "A Guide to the Business of Babysitting" has a huge amount of information, including safety and activities to do with kids according to age – as well as the nuts and bolts of bathing, sleeping and dressing.
  • Kids' Turn Central. Find suggestions for finding jobs and interviewing the family, plus activities and safety. Also includes printable lists such as "Children's Information," "General Information" and "Emergency Numbers."
  • KidsHealth. This is a solid basic primer on preparing for the job of babysitter.
  • The Red Cross guides. The organization publishes a number of babysitting guides that are available as downloadable PDF files. Topics include "Safety Inspection Checklist," "Family Information Card," and a "Family Interview Form."

Good ol' books

The library has gobs of good guides on babysitting. Here two great titles (same names, different authors) worth checking out:

The parents' job

A word of warning: Just because you have provided your teen with the best classes, books and Web sites doesn't mean that your job is done. It's still your responsibility as a parent to do some follow-up. Look over the materials with your teen. Be sure to talk with him or her about the information and what questions he or she might still have.

And above all, remember: Even if you've armed your teenager with a wealth of information, there is nothing like a parent's help in a crisis, be it big or small. Make sure to be just a phone call away those first few jobs. Your teen might just need the biggest babysitter resource of all: Mom or dad!

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