- Associated Press - Monday, August 7, 2017

BRECKENRIDGE, Texas (AP) - There are some things in this world that you just know how to do right off the bat.

Dancing is a good example. The same for belly-flopping into a pool.

But babysitting? No, not really.

The Abilene Reporter-News reports in the past, there has been an assumption that 10- to13-year-old children - girls, specifically - naturally know how to babysit. Perhaps the root of it was bias, or perhaps families were simply bigger then and older daughters were taught child care under the watchful tutelage of their mothers.

But assumptions have a way of going wrong.

Patricia Keener learned this in the early 1980s. While a pediatrician at an Indiana hospital, the 18-month-old daughter of a nurse on staff began choking during breakfast. The adult babysitter caring for the child didn’t know what to do, by the time the ambulance brought the baby to the hospital it was too late.

The tragedy inspired Keener to create what eventually has come to be known as the Safe Sitter program. By 1995, the curriculum she designed was being taught in all 50 states.

“Dr. Keener decided there was a need to educate babysitters and to make sure they are better prepared for scenarios like that,” said Sumer Russell, the Family Consumer Science agent for the Stephens County Texas A&M; AgriLife Extension office. She and Andrea Degelia, the FCS agent for Eastland County to the south, held a Safe Sitter class last month. It was their first one for Stephens County.

“We teach safety skills, the different stages of behavior, choking hazards, life skills, and business skills,” Russell said. “It is technically geared toward 11- to 13-year-olds.”

That was the age range of the six girls at the class. All were 12 except for one 10-year-old. Russell said they can accommodate older kids but prefer to put them in their own group.

“We are excited for the turnout because it is such an important life-skill,” Degelia said.

The daylong class was a mixture of lecture, games, role-playing and working with mannequins. Those last come in three different sizes; infant, toddler and child. The soon-to-be sitters practice holding a baby, changing a diaper, and what to do when things go wrong.

“We demonstrate how to do the Heimlich maneuver, how to induce coughing if the patient starts to choke in that scenario,” Russell explained. “We have older child and infant size, just because the techniques are a little more delicate as (the child) gets littler.”

The cost was $50 for each student and they receive a certificate and a handbook to take with them. Degelia said the girls are encouraged to bring book with them on babysitting assignments as a reference.

“We address assumptions,” Russell reiterated. “It takes those out of mind, instead of assuming that they know.”

The curriculum covers a range of topics. Some you would expect, like how to gather everyone up and take them to the safest part of the house in a tornado warning. But it also outlines how a babysitter can reassure the children during a moment like that.

“Whoever you are babysitting, they are going to respond to how you are responding,” Russell said to the girls. “If you’re calm, they are going to be calm.

“If your eyes look like they’re about to pop out of your head because you are so scared, they are going to be scared. So, remember that you are the adult in the situation when there’s nobody else at home.”

Learning how to react to those scenarios were a large reason why these girls signed up for the class. Sydney Garland, 12, said she wants to babysit more often and hopes parents will trust her to do so.

“Because you always want your kids in good hands,” she said.

The biggest concern a babysitter is likely to address is how to get those kids into bed on time. Safe Sitter had some helpful strategies for that, too.

“You can’t give them the choice of whether or not they can go to bed,” Russell lectured. “But if a child is being resistant, give them two or three acceptable choices like picking the order in which they do something.”

So even though they’re going to bed, the child can decide whether to brush teeth or read books first. It’s an acknowledgment of the child’s desire to have some control over their own lives but still allows the sitter to keep things moving.

“I think it’s human nature that you kind of know what to do in most situations,” Russell said. “But we are teaching them about emergency situations in order to broaden their minds, to know what to do before it even happens.”

___

Information from: Abilene Reporter-News, https://www.reporternews.com


Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide