SIDNEY — Mom and dad need a babysitter so they can go to dinner and a movie … who are you going to call?
“When I think of babysitters, I always think about the movie ‘Home Alone.’ You’ve got Kevin, Harry and Marv. It gives you something to think about — about how things can get out of control quickly,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview.
Lenhart said many parents look to their older children or their parents to be babysitters.
“What is a good age to start babysitting?” asked Lenhart. “It all depends on the child’s age and level of maturity. Usually ages 9-12 is a good time for them to start to think about babysitting. It also depends on how long they are babysitting — will it be one to two hours or all evening?”
And, said Lenhart, if the child is an only child, when is it OK for them to stay home alone?
“Everything also depends on the type of neighborhood you live in. Is it quiet? Is it rural? Or is it known to have crime activities going on?
“Does you home have an alarm system? Does the child know how to use it? Do they know the basic rule of never opening a door to a stranger?”
Has the child used good judgment in the past? Do you have friends or family who live nearby who could help in an emergency? Does the child know how to call 911?
“If the babysitter is a teenager, do they know who is allowed to come over while they are babysitting?” asked Lenhart.
In the state of Ohio, he said, there is no law governing the age of when a child can start babysitting.
“I think 11 to 12 years old is a good time to start,” said Lenhart. “And then have them babysit one to two hours during the daytime to start with.”
Parents also rely on their parents to “babysit” their grandchildren.
“As a grandparent, we’re excited to have our grandkids come over or we go to their house,” said Lenhart. “It’s a win/win situation for everyone.”
“But as we know, grandparents have a tendency to spoil their grandkids,” he said.
As parents, said Lenhart, each person should take somethings into consideration when asking the grandparents to babysit.
“Are their stairs for them to contend with?” asked Lenhart. “And the grandparent needs to watch their personal property as young children like to explore purses and pockets.
“Also, I’m hesitant to give a little guy or little gal baths because they like to splash and can slip in the tub. I usually leave that job to the parents,” he said.
Grandparents, he said, don’tneed to spend money on their grandchildren.
“Find other ways to spend time with them,” he said. “Read to them or watch television with them. It’s you time to get to know your grandchildren.”
Lenhart said parents will usually leave a list of items for the babysitter. This list can explain if the child is allergic to anything, what their bedtime is or what they can have for snacks.
“As a parent, you could offer the grandparents money for keeping the kids overnight. But we know most grandparents won’t accept money, so give them a gift card so they can go out for a meal instead,” he said. “Make sure you’re clear on their communication between you and the babysitter — whether it’s a grandparent, older sibling or someone else.
“The times a grandparent spends with their grandchildren gives them time to create magical memories,” he said. “A sibling can also learn responsibility by babysitting and create their own magical memories too.”
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.