Not only is it a smart way to save money, but having your oldest child watch the younger ones is a great way to teach responsibility.
One of the first jobs older siblings are tasked with is babysitting their little brothers and sisters. But how do you know your child is ready to be left alone with all that responsibility? Well, there is no one answer. Instead, it depends on several factors.
First, how responsible are your children? Maybe your oldest is practically an adult in a child’s body when it comes to maturity, but if their younger sibling is the embodiment of the Tasmanian Devil, then you need to weigh those two facts against each other when deciding if they can be left alone together.
Knowing if your child is mature enough to watch over their younger sibling can be a tough call. One of the things you want to be sure they are able to do is recognize a situation in which an adult needs to be involved and how to get in contact with them. Also, are they able to get their younger sibling to follow directions or do the things they say go in one ear and out the other? Finally, does your oldest feel comfortable watching their younger sibling? If being left alone causes them emotional distress, you may want to consider hiring a sitter or asking a friend/family member to keep an eye on them.
Is it even legal for your child to be left alone? According to the National Child Care Information Center, only Illinois and Maryland currently have laws regarding a minimum age for leaving a child home alone. This means it is on you alone to determine if they are old enough to stay at home without you.
If you do decide to let your oldest babysit, give it a trial run first. Start by having them watch their younger siblings while you are in the shower, or taking a nap. If they can handle this short time frame, move up to you actually leaving home for a quick errand. If all goes well, increase the time, you spend away. If your child is too young to drive, you may want to avoid overnight trips or at least have a trusted adult check in on them.
Be sure to set rules before leaving children alone. If you don’t want them to use the stove while you’re away, make it a rule! Make sure all of your children are aware of the rules and the consequences of breaking them.
As with all parenting decisions, you are the most knowledgeable as to if your child is ready for something or not. Start small and trust your instinct when making any decision that affects the wellbeing of your family.