I'm the editor of Smart, a magazine for women in southcentral Pennsylvania. I said "I do" to my wonderful husband in 2002. We have two adorable children who have taught me much about life and love. With the birth of my second child, I bid farewell to my dreams of having a clean house, folded laundry and family dinners on weeknights.

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How to have a good baby-sitting experience

babysitting

Danielle Miller, 12, learns how to lay down a baby by supporting its head during baby-sitting training at the West Manchester Township building.

By JENNIFER VOGELSONG for Smart

Caring for children isn’t something to be taken lightly.

Especially when they’re someone else’s children. Especially in an age when you practically have to have a signed parental release to help a child blow his nose.

Horror stories about bad baby sitters and hyperactive kids make it tough for both parents and would-be baby sitters to negotiate what used to be a simple arrangement.

Short of running background checks and calling every 10 minutes to check up on things at home, how’s a parent to find out whether a potential sitter can be trusted? How’s a baby sitter to know what he or she is getting into before the first hours alone with the kids?

Well, there are some things that both parents and baby sitters can do.

Age

Most teens get their first baby-sitting experiences by caring for younger siblings and relatives. Many are ready to tackle the job for neighbors and family friends by the time they are 11 or 12 — although it varies according to the individual’s maturity level and sense of responsibility.

Parents or teens who don’t feel quite ready can ease into the situation a couple of different ways. The teen can spend a few hours volunteering as a helper, ­learning how a parent handles certain situations, and getting to know the children and household routines. Or, the teen could ask the parent if it would be OK to buddy up with a responsible friend and sit together the first few times, splitting the money they earn.

Training

Nearly any teen who wants to earn extra cash by baby-sitting can learn ­something from the many training courses offered by the American Red Cross and area municipalities.

The courses, which typically require five or six hours of training, cover safety, first aid, child development, the business aspects of the job and how to handle ­difficult situations. Teens who complete one of the courses are usually given a certificate they can show potential employers.

Parents might want to find out if a ­sitter knows CPR, how to handle infants, and how to change a diaper or warm a bottle. Ask a sitter how he or she would handle an imaginary scenario.

Pay

Sometimes, the issue of compensation can be an uncomfortable one.

Things to consider when deciding how much to pay or charge include the number and ages of children, their personalities, the amount of time the job lasts, and what responsibilities it includes.

Communication key

Open communication about ­expectations is the best way to ensure that your baby-sitting experience is a positive one for both sides.

Sources: York-Adams Chapter of American Red Cross and Susan P. Byrnes Health Education Center in York

Find (and keep) a good baby sitter

• Ask other parents and neighbors who they use.

• Inquire at your place of worship if there are teens interested in sitting.

• Call the Red Cross and leave your information. Someone who has ­attended one of its training classes will get back in touch with you.

• Pay according to experience, number of children, length and difficulty of the job.

Upcoming baby-sitting training:

9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Aug. 7 and Nov. 6, York Township Recreation Department. Register online at www.yorktownshiprec.com or call 741-3861, ext. 129.

Source: York-Adams Chapter of American Red Cross, Monica Newcomb, program director for York Township

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