Slipping on a pair of rubber gloves, 13-year-old Julia Snyder of Sugarloaf Township removed the old diaper, carefully folded it and then fastened a new one on the tiny, fresh-faced mannequin.
Meanwhile, 13-year-old Jenna Rapach of Hazleton held a second mannequin to her shoulder and patted it on the back to “burp” it.
Little girls playing with dolls? Hardly.
These young women were among a dozen teens who took part in a day-long “Safe-Sitter” class last week in the Greater Hazleton Health Alliance’s education building. Here they learned techniques not only for feeding and changing babies but for entertaining children at different stages of development, applying first-aid and knowing when to call a back-up adult for help.
If a child wakes up crying from a nightmare? You can offer assurance everything is all right, maybe even lie down next to him or her for a while.
If a child doesn’t want to go to bed? You can make a game out of buttoning pajamas and read a favorite story.
If a child has a toileting “accident?” You can clean it up, making sure not to scold or tease.
The teens talked about those situations with their adult instructors and agreed they could handle similar challenges on their own.
But what if a child fell from a swing, hit his head and was knocked unconscious? What if he was turning blue? Or wheezing?
In a potentially life-threatening case, you’d call 911, explain who and where you are and stay on the phone.
“Does anyone know what a seizure is?” asked Suzanne Diehl, an emergency-room nurse.
“When they’re moving uncontrollably,” one girl answered.
Yes, Diehl said, and that’s another time to call 911.
For situations that are less critical, it’s advisable to call a “back-up adult.”
And, for times when the children need to be cajoled away from their fear of the dark or their desire to tease a sibling, it helps to know how to distract them, perhaps using a song as a game or even turning a chore into a game.
“Wouldn’t you rather do something that’s more of a game?” instructor Laura Jones asked.
The teens nodded in agreement.
Several of them said during a break they are hoping to find work as babysitters; others said they already have some experience.
“I watch my neighbor’s little boy. We met at the bus stop,” Hailey Andrejco, 13, of Weatherly said, explaining it helps that her 8-year-old brother is close to the child in age and they can play together.
The Safe-Sitter program was founded by Dr. Patricia A. Keener, a pediatrician and neonatologist from Indiana, in response to the unfortunate death of a colleague’s child. Since it was established in 1980, the not-for-profit program has introduced more than 600,000 adolescents at 900 sites to techniques for being an effective and safety-conscious babysitter.
As the instructors pointed out last week, the course discusses safety for the sitter as well as the young charges, including advice about not letting strangers into the employer’s home, not posting information or photos about the children or the fact that you are babysitting them online, and about getting yourself away someone who might try making sexual advances.
It’s important to have a “safety signal,” the instructors said, explaining it could be one simple word a concerned babysitter might text to her own parent to communicate she needed to be picked up immediately, no questions asked.