Tips for Grandparenting Success
With school out now, working parents may be in the hunt for some backup caregivers. If you’re a grandparent — or aunt, uncle or other trusted family member — you may get the call to help out. How do you prepare?
“First, embrace the challenge,” advises Stephanie Toy, M.D., pediatrian for NorthBay Health Primary Care in Vacaville. “As you already know, your primary job is to love them! No one is perfect, so let go of that fear and focus on your compassionate protective instincts.”
Before setting a date to hang out, there are some steps you can take to prepare.
First, see yourself through your grandchild’s perspective to child proof your home, Dr. Toy said.
“I advise parents to get down on their child’s level and see what you can get into.”
A great resource for caregiver suggestions on childproofing their home is at healthychildren.org.
“It’s a website provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Parents will find good tips under the ‘Safety & Prevention’ and ‘At Home’ sections. The information includes advice on safety gates for stairs, medication storage, crib safety standards, dangling cord removal, and soft covers around sharp corners”.
You’ll also want to shop for healthy snacks and consider activities that your grandchild and you would enjoy.
Also, make sure you have the parent’s emergency numbers close by, as well as the number for poison control (1-800-222-1222.)
Be aware of potential drowning risks, as well.
“Some of the greatest drowning risks for a toddler can be simply a five-gallon bucket, a toilet bowl, or an inflatable pool with a water level of just one to two inches. Unfortunately, drowning is the most common cause of death in children ages 1 to 4.”
Time for Fun
Now that you’ve got safety precautions in place, it’s time to plan the day.
“Share your mutual passions. Explore your local parks or community activities. Try new experiences followed by tried and true activities that your grandchild loves, such as baking together, bowling, or games. There are also good things to do at the local library, that may also be free.”
Be aware that the child’s attention span may be shorter than you expect, she added, so patience is key.
“So is consistency. Your grandchild is counting on you to lovingly model appropriate behavior. Set clear, simple, and child-friendly expectations. What may seem like easy-to-follow instructions may not be so easy for your grandchild. Gently and patiently walk through your step-by-step rules,” said Dr. Toy. “For example, say ‘after brushing your teeth, we get to read one book together, and then it is bedtime. Get a good night’s sleep because tomorrow morning, we have a special activity planned.’ Be flexible, yet stick as humanly possible to a set schedule. Patiently wait through the learning curve. Gently replace your frustrations with empathy and guide your grandchild with your truth in love.”
Consistency is also important for meal times, Dr. Toy emphasized. “Around meals, never force a child to eat. Take a deep breath. You get to choose where, when and what the child eats. The child chooses how much. If a child resists, let it go. The child can be offered the same healthy meal later as a snack. Preventively offer nutritious foods the child likes, and have a fun ‘tasting plate’ that the child can explore without feeling pressure to eat the items. Keep allowing exploration of the new food multiple times as you show your enjoyment of the food.”
If your grandchild has excessive energy, consider going to the park or joining a community activity. “Your grandchild will play with other kids. A win-win, a break for both of you.”
Spending time with pre-teens and teens offers different challenges.
“Work together to plan activities and media expectations up front,” Dr. Toy said. “Listen carefully. Agree on a reasonable time for cellphone usage and replace media time with fun adventures. Focus on having a great time exploring life together.”
You can read Dr. Toy's professional profile and learn more about our primary care services. Feel empowered to reach out to your family's prediatrician for more tips and advice on having fun with your grandchildren.