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Are Teens Really Too Old for Sitters? Finding A Babysitter For Teenagers

Summer’s here and many parents are scrambling to make sure their teenagers are not on their own all day long. Camp can only go so far, so how about a sitter?

Hiring a sitter for a teenager can seem like a daunting task, but, rest assured, it can be done. Unlike a sitter for a baby or child, a sitter for a teenager requires finding the fine balance between caregiver and friend. Your teens might think they’re too old for a babysitter, but a sitter might be necessary if you won’t be home to prepare dinner or drive to activities during the day.

Finding A Summer Babysitter

Founder of the American Nanny Company, Marsha Halperin Epstein, emphasizes that “less is best” when it comes to caregiving for teens. Sitters “should not overwhelm or dominate. They should ask your children reasonable questions and show interest in them as human beings,” she says.

Michelle LaRowe, editor in chief of eNannySource.com, advises a similar role. “The ideal sitter for your teen should be someone your teen can relate to, but someone who can also be an authority figure,” LaRowe says. “The best teen nanny will enjoy transporting the kids to and from activities. They will know when to be make their presence known and when to sink into the background. And they will be a good role model and can inspire your teen to make good choices and be the best he can be.”

Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a Pittsburgh-area family physician, agrees that teen sitters especially should serve as role models. Unlike younger kids, their charges are uniquely susceptible to peer pressure and risky behavior. By modelling appropriate adult behavior, a sitter can reinforce the parents’ own directives while also serving as a sounding board.

Of course, this is no easy feat. Dealing with teenagers can be tricky, and caregivers must be able to put on multiple hats.

“My relationships with them have been caretaker/nanny/confidante/friend,” notes Jo Barrow, winner of The International Nanny Association’s Nanny of the Year award.

Babysitter for Teenagers

Indeed, some teens feel more comfortable talking to their caregiver because of this unique relationship, which parents should view as a bonus.

Once you’ve found the right person, the key is to maintain open communication.

“You need to have a shared value and belief system with the parents and a healthy respect,” Barrow says. It’s like “a business partnership with shared goals for the kids.”

Epstein agrees, adding that parents and caregivers set up weekly meetings to discuss how things are going. Those should include ongoing conversations about what approaches are appropriate for the teen in any given scenario.

Yes, your teen may at first reject the idea of a sitter—mom, that’s for babies!—but if everyone works together to create positive relationships, it can end up being a plus for the whole family.

Rebecca Borison

Rebecca Borison is a writer in New York City.