If summer camp isn’t in your family’s plan for the upcoming school break, you may be thinking of letting your older child stay home alone or watch younger siblings. Teens might even be considering babysitting to pick up some summer cash.
Only you know when your child is ready to take on this responsibility. If it’s the right time to take the jump, you can help them get ready with these tips:
Prepare for the unexpected. Emergencies and other unexpected situations happen. Knowing what to do ahead of time can help your child keep a level head in the moment.
- Consider signing your child up for CPR certification. The American Heart Association offers resources to fit all needs.
- Make sure they know when and how to call 911 and the address to give the dispatcher.
- Help them create a list of emergency numbers, including poison control.
- Teach children how to work the home security system, if you have one.
- If your teen will be watching a child for another family, help them come up with a list of questions to ask before their first day on the job.
- Make sure your child knows what to do in case of:
- A power outage
- The smoke alarm goes off
- A small kitchen fire
- Severe weather, including tornados
- Someone at the door or someone calling for a parent who isn’t home
Know the ground rules. Make sure your child knows what is expected of him or her whether they are at home or in someone else’s home.
- If your child will be babysitting for another family, guidelines likely already will be in place. As a parent, you can still ask your child what those rules are or ask questions about what they are planning for the day.
- If your child will be at home, set some ground rules of your own. Things to think about include: having friends over, computer and TV rules, rooms that may be off limits and what is allowed in the kitchen.
Plan time to check in. Setting a time for your child to check in with you while you are away may help everyone feel more at ease. If there are times you won’t be able to answer the phone, make sure your child knows that as well.
Go for a practice run. Allow your child to stay home alone for 30 minutes to an hour while you are nearby and easily reachable. When you return, talk about how it went and things your child might need for next time.
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital offers classes to prepare young teens for staying home alone or watching younger children. Learn more or register at www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/safesitter. Space is limited.