Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Q&A: Safe Sitter instructor talks babysitting readiness, child safety

Posted August 2
Updated August 3

WakeMed offers regular Safe Sitter courses, which focus on teaching tweens and young teens the essential skills required to care for children.

I checked in with WakeMed Safe Sitter instructor Tricia Jarrell to learn more about this program, which is very popular, and when to know if your child is ready for the job and responsibility.

Here's our Q&A:

Go Ask Mom: What's the right age for a child to start thinking about being a mother's helper or babysitter? How do you know if a child is ready for that responsibility?

Tricia Jarrell: There isn’t necessarily one specific or right age that determines if your child is ready to handle the responsibilities of caring for a younger child. Babysitting is a big job and a big responsibility – it’s also fun and rewarding. If parents think their child may be ready for babysitting, Safe Sitter is a great program to help prepare them. We encourage parents to consider several things when making this decision. For example:

  • Does my child want to start babysitting – has he or she asked to babysit?
  • Does my child enjoy younger kids?
  • Does my child seem capable enough to handle the responsibilities of caring for a younger child?
  • Does my child practice safe habits and handle typical household situations appropriately (such as telephone calls, answering the door)
  • Would my child feel comfortable at someone else’s home without adult supervision or after dark?
  • Does my child feel comfortable talking to adults?

GAM: Tell us about the class - what does it focus on, what are the big takeaways for the participants?

TJ: Safe Sitter is a one-day program for youth and young teens ages 11 to 14. The goal of the program is to provide life skills, safety skills and proper child care training and techniques. What we stress in Safe Sitter is that when you take the responsibility of babysitting, you take the responsibility of the child's life. Students learn how to handle behavior problems, medical emergencies and dangers that could compromise their safety as well as the safety of the children in their care. Additionally, we teach program participants basic CPR skills (no certification) and how rescue a choking child or infant, plus ways to prevent choking in the first place.

GAM: Who attends the program? Do you get both girls and boys?

TJ: This popular program is for girls and boys ages 11 to 14. We do have both boys and girls attend the Safe Sitter classes.

GAM: It focuses on childcare, but also touches on cell phone and internet use. Why is that so important?

TJ: Safe Sitter teaches that while taking a cell phone to a babysitting job is important, as many homes do not have a land line anymore, the sitter should not use their phone or the internet while babysitting – only in case of an emergency. The focus should always be on the child/children that they are babysitting. Safe Sitter also teaches that no form of social media should be used to advertise for a babysitting job. All babysitting referrals should be from family or acquaintances that are trusted by the sitter and his/her parents.

GAM: What are the most common questions you get from parents who are wondering if their kids are ready to babysit?

TJ: We are often asked what age a child should be in order to begin babysitting. Since there’s not one specific or right age that determines when a child is ready, parents should focus on how responsible he or she is as well as how comfortable they are with children and with being left alone without an adult. Every child is individual when it comes to being ready to handle the responsibility of another’s life. Parents will need to determine if their child is ready to handle this responsibility.

GAM: What questions should a parent ask a new babysitter - particularly a tween or teen - before she starts?

TJ: A parent should ask about prior babysitting experience. It would be also wise to schedule some time for the babysitter to spend with the child while the parents are at home. This is a good opportunity for first-time babysitters as well as for children that are not familiar with a new sitter. Also, parents should leave a number for a ‘back-up adult’ who lives nearby if an emergency arises or in case the babysitter needs assistance. We also teach Safe Sitter students to ask for the phone number of the ‘back-up adult’ or to have their own parent(s) available should they need help.

WakeMed's website has more information about upcoming programs and registration. The fee is $50.


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