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Bringing up baby sitters

Not every 11- or 12-year-old would know just what to do if a child were choking or had gotten burned or scraped a knee.

But Maggie Terry does. So do John Gosper and Caty-Beth Gooding.

The three spent a recent Saturday afternoon attending a Baby Sitting Certification course at the Beaumont YMCA.

The six-hour workshop — offered regularly at both the Beaumont YMCA and the American Red Cross-Bluegrass Area Chapter — touches on a wide range of topics, including basic first-aid and proper use of the Heimlich maneuver, diapering infants, and selecting age-appropriate games to keep older kids entertained.

What do you do if a stranger comes to the door? How do you respond if there's a fire or loss of electricity, or if there's a storm coming? How do you persuade a recalcitrant child to eat her dinner, brush her teeth and go to bed on time?

It all was covered.

Even the business side of baby-sitting was discussed. Participants left with tips on creating a résumé, business cards and fliers to promote their services.

The course was a huge confidence booster, said Maggie Terry, 12, a seventh-grader at West Jessamine Middle who has had just one baby-sitting job so far.

"I have a certificate now that says I know how to do the Heimlich. I know what to do if a child starts bleeding. I think that will make me feel a lot more confident on the job," she said.

The goal of the course is as much about building confidence as it is about providing information, said Beth Satterfield, aquatics director at the Beaumont YMCA, who often leads the course. The Beaumont YMCA has trained roughly 300 baby sitters in the last three years. It's designed for kids 11 through 15.

"A large part of it is developing that confidence, getting kids to realize they know a lot more (about how to handle different scenarios) than they may think they do," Satterfield said.

It is "a way for children to gain self-esteem and valuable knowledge that can transfer to all areas of their life," said Valen Spears, aquatics coordinator at American Red Cross-Bluegrass Area Chapter, whose department helps coordinate classes.

Spears' own daughter, Lindsay Poff, 12, took the class last summer, and the effects have been life-changing, Spears said. Her daughter gained confidence, she said, and it "allowed her to call upon the skills that she has and take pride in them."

For Caty-Beth Gooding, 12, a seventh-grader at Winburn Middle School, the most valuable part of the workshop was the diapering and feeding practice with life-like infant mannequins. She's eager now to get a chance with a real baby.

John Gosper, 11, a sixth-grader at Southern Middle School, liked the tips for defusing arguments among siblings. That information will come in handy when he watches his younger brother and sister, he said.