By Rachel Paxton
Babysitting has changed a lot since I was a teenager. My mom didn't worry about checking out the families I babysat for and spent time with. Maybe things were safer then, but then again maybe not. Maybe she should have worried more. As it was, I was very lucky that nothing really bad ever happened to me. Just a couple of close calls.
I remember one time smelling something strange in a house where I was babysitting. I didn't realize until I was much older that the smell was marijuana. At the time I had my suspicions, but I was too young to understand what was going on. I never told my mom. I have friends that were molested while they were babysitting, by people they didn't know. They never told their parents either.
I don't mean to scare you. Well, I guess I kind of do. Do you personally know who your teen is babysitting for? Fortunately for my husband and I, we became Christians before our daughter was old enough to babysit. At one time I would have thought differently about the families we chose to let our daughter spend time with.
That's not to say our daughter couldn't babysit for a non-Christian family, or that all Christian families are safe. Our daughter's safety is first and foremost in our minds. What's most important is being at least acquainted with the family beforehand, and making an informed decision on whether your teen should be babysitting for them.
As our daughter has ventured into the world of babysitting, there have been many unexpected benefits. The most obvious being the significant increase in her spending money. Much to her dismay, my husband and I feel very strongly about having children work for their money. Our daughter receives a small allowance in exchange for doing a few household chores. Babysitting has become her most significant source of income.
Our daughter is an only child. She misses not having a little brother or sister, and she can't at all relate to her friends who would gladly trade places with her. Babysitting has given our daughter a window into another life. Our neighbor has four little girls, ages 7, 5, 4, and 2. Our daughter adores them. Their mother has taken an interest in her and talks to her a lot about the girls, and about being a mom. Their family is very down to earth and provides a wonderful example of what a healthy family should be. In today's world that's hard to come by.
Kids learn a lot from their parents about how to have a healthy marriage and how to be good parents (or not). I can't overemphasize the importance of role models in your teen's life. Whether you're Christian or not, you can help choose the adults your teen spends time with. Babysitting is an excellent, first-hand way for your child to spend time with another family, helping them, while also learning lifelong lessons (often without even knowing it).
Give some thought to where you let your teen hang out. If your teen does a lot of babysitting, especially for one family, make sure they're safe. Better yet, make sure they're good role models for your child. The more your teen spends quality time with other families and their children, the better parent your teen will someday be.
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