Becoming safe sitters: Hospital classes teach youth


Being a babysitter is a big responsibility.

From changing diapers to getting a child to quit crying, babysitting requires patience, maturity and decision-making skills.

For many youth, watching their younger siblings or kids in the neighborhood is often a first taste of what it’s like to have a job and earn their own money.

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Schneck Medical Center in Seymour wants to prevent childhood accidents and injuries by helping train older children in safe sitting techniques.

This summer, the hospital offered several sessions of the nationally recognized Safe Sitter program to youth ages 11 to 15 interested in becoming more responsible child care givers.

Most of the classes had around a dozen attendants.

The two-day, 12-hour courses taught participants behavior management and different tips for calming children down, when to call 911, how to change diapers and how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on infants, toddlers and school-aged children.

Certified instructor Tasha Adams, an obstetrics nurse at Schneck, said the most important skill a babysitter can master is remaining calm in any situation.

“You need to stay in control of yourself in order to manage a child’s behavior,” she said.

She encouraged the students to handle minor problems by themselves, like when a child is crying. Adams said crying doesn’t always mean something is wrong.

“Babies just cry sometimes,” she said. “You should never punish a baby for crying.”

Another important aspect of babysitting is identifying appropriate ways to entertain children and learning about what they like and don’t like, Adams said.

In one exercise, a 5-year-old boy was brought in to interact with the future sitters. They also had the opportunity to ask his mom questions to collect information, like what kind of allergies he has and what time he goes to bed.

Other exercises included role playing. where kids pretended to dial 911 to report emergencies and decide how to handle a misbehaving child.

At the end of the course, each sitter was able to demonstrate what to do when a child is choking and how to perform CPR. They also memorized the phone number for the Poison Control Hotline.

“Hopefully, they never have to do it,” Adams said of life-saving skills. “But if they do, they know how.”

Bailey Bohall, 11, of Seymour said she became interested in babysitting after meeting her stepsister’s babysitter.

“I love what she does,” Bohall said. “Whenever I went there the first time, I saw how it makes kids happy, and I really want to do it.”

Although she doesn’t have any experience in babysitting yet, Bohall said the class was a great way to get started.

“My mom told me about it, so I was like, ‘Yeah, I really want to do this,’” she said. “It has actually been very helpful.”

The most valuable skills she learned were how to do the Heimlich maneuver to help a child who is choking, CPR for a child that isn’t breathing and how to properly change a diaper, she said.

Making money is not the main reason Bohall wants to babysit, but it’s definitely a benefit, she said.

“I just really love seeing little kids happy and enjoy being around them,” she said.

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