Siblings babysitting siblings: Many factors to consider

What parents need to know about siblings babysitting their siblings.

Are you wondering if your 12-year-old can babysit their younger siblings this summer? A sibling in charge of other siblings is a big step and there are many factors to consider before making this important decision. Michigan has no law regarding the age a child can babysit and there is no magic age to determine if a tween or teen is ready to take on that responsibility. The following questions can help families determine the best fit for them.

  • Consider the current relationships between your children. Do they already have difficulties getting along? Sibling relationships are important throughout a lifetime and protecting these relationships need to be taken into consideration.
  • Is your child mature enough to handle the responsibility?
  • Do you plan to pay them to watch their siblings?

You’ve gathered information and talked with your spouse – Now what?

Have a sit-down discussion with your child. A huge part of making this arrangement work is communicating with the entire family.

In talking with youth who already babysit their siblings, we heard conflicting stories:

  • Several stated they had not been asked, it was expected of them and they did not want the responsibility.
  • Others didn’t mind the responsibility, but wanted to be paid.
  • A few mentioned the arrangement was working well and they were having fun with their siblings.

If you decide this arrangement is worth a try, check-in with all your children throughout the summer. If it doesn’t work, stop and hire a new sitter. Again, communication is the key. Discuss the situation as a family without placing blame.

Deciding to put an older child in charge of their siblings is a decision needing serious consideration. You may need to cut the budget somewhere in order to “hire” your child to take on this responsibility.

Michigan State University Extension offers babysitting classes; check online to see if your county has this class. Also contact your local Red Cross, health department and/or hospital for first aid and CPR training.

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