For Babysitting 101 Plus founder and CEO Barri Zehner, the teenage babysitting job has evolved from simply watching someone else’s children to reflect the accountability demanded in today’s world. 

Learning to babysit is now a lesson in life, and Zehner, who is also an oncology nurse at Northside Hospital-Forsyth, is working to prepare the babysitters of tomorrow to take on those roles and responsibilities.  

Babysitting 101 Plus teaches children and teenagers, ages 10-16, how to babysit responsibly. As with many classes, Zehner’s program covers the babysitting basics, like feeding children, naps and bedtimes, dealing with misbehavior, first aid needs and how to handle emergencies. All participants are trained and certified in CPR through the American Heart Association. 

But unlike most classes, Babysitting 101 Plus also helps students understand why a particular skill or approach is used, and the day-long classes go well beyond the basics.

“From the second the kids walk through the door, they are immediately thrown into use of their soft skills, like verbal communication, with others in the room,” Zehner said. “We practice use of these skills, discussing the impact our body language as well as spoken language has on others.  This is a skill that is vital for success in life and used throughout the babysitting experience.”

The program also discusses safety concerns that may occur outside of babysitting, such as peer pressure, the drug triangle and human trafficking. 

“Many parents are afraid to talk to their kids about these things, or the kids think their parents are ‘stupid,’ so they tune them out when they try,” Zehner said. “Hearing about this from another adult is absolutely beneficial; and better yet, it’s in a setting with less kids, so they are more comfortable asking questions and discussing their feelings and understanding of this scary reality. The kids take the floor on these topics. If they want to delve in deeper, we do. If they seem fearful, it stays brief and basic.”

Zehner added that she covers these topics and skills to help babysitters become better role models for all children they encounter.

“By the time my students leave, they understand not just how to babysit safely, but also that they are huge influence in the lives of the children they will watch,” she said. 

Zehner, a certified instructor for the American Heart Association, first created the class almost 10 years ago when she learned a Boy Scout to whom she had taught CPR used those skills to save his troop leader’s life. From there, her mission grew to train young people about CPR, choking hazards and how to be good babysitters.

She has since trained more than 2,000 children. 

Each class is customized to the needs of the students, and Zehner said she is determined to work personally with each attendee. 

The work can be long and challenging at times, Zehner said, but it’s incredibly rewarding.

“When I get that call or email from a parent telling me that their child used skills learned in this class to save a life — and it has happened multiple times — that is my reward,” she said. “When parents tell me that their kids used knowledge from this class to better themselves as a person and to positively impact others in their lives, from the kids they babysit to their peers and even adults, that is my reward. When I am told this class had a positive impact on a child, on a family, on a life, that is my reward.”

For more information about Babysitting 101 Plus or to enroll in an upcoming class, visit babysitting101plus.com.

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