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My wife and I are lucky that we have lots of family around to help babysit our three young girls when we need to be out. Recently, my 13-year old niece has expressed interest in babysitting. She has taken a course at her middle school and is a responsible person. That being said, we are not yet comfortable with her to be alone with the kids. Are we being overly protective? -- Chris, StrongMoms Facilitator
Only you can determine how you feel about a certain babysitter. I found that as my children got older, I became less apprehensive about babysitters because I trusted my children to do the right things too. When they were all little, it was much harder. That being said...you do have to establish a trust with a babysitter, no matter how old they are. You could start small and go to the neighborhood coffee shop while your niece watched your kids. Then you are only gone an hour. Then gradually stretch that out and have lunch one day..etc... good luck and let us know what you choose.
I think that MommyRNs idea is great. I also an remember when I was a young teen and started babysitting I started by watching the kids while there was an adult home, but I was responsible for the kids. That way I had help if i needed it, but could start babysitting. Then we progressed to short stents with the kids as MommyRN described, and then I finally graduated to watching the kids for an afternoon or evening. I also think that since we now have cell phones it's even safer as the babysitter can always get ahold of you. I love the babysitting classes that our teens can take. They didn't have those when I was a kid.
I'm with Jess_BabyRN - when I started as a nanny, I was responsible for the kids when the mother was home but doing other things. That way she could see how I interacted with the kids and build up her trust level. I ended up nannying for this family all the way through college. Such a great experience - hope this helps!
I agree with the others that starting small with guardians in the home is the way to go. It's safer and will allow you to make sure everyone is on the same page as far as what the kids can and can't get away with with the sitter. However this is your 13 year old niece with 3 little girls. Hazel is 9 months old now and can be a real handful all by herself let alone adding two other children to the mix.. So maybe 13 is too young in my eyes to handle 3 children alone. Have you ever considered co-sitting where she would have someone helping her watch the children so if she's chasing the younger one around the other sitter can keep an eye on the other two.... well that's the idea anyway.
Thanks for the advice everyone. Tonight we are having my niece sleep over and taking care of the kids, although we will be home. Your suggestions have been very helpful here!