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With childcare costs rising, many parents are reaching out to grandparents for their help in looking after their children. But nanny and grandad have more to offer than free childcare and babysitting services, as any happy grandchild will tell you. Good grandparents also bring wisdom, experience, patience (who else is prepared to play endless games of ‘let’s pretend’?), and oodles of love and cuddles. Grandparents get plenty back in return, top of the list being a strong bond with their grandchildren. So if you’re lucky enough to have active grandparents, here’s how to make it work – for everyone.

Tips for you…

  • Be sensitive to age Not many grandparents can provide full-time childcare. If you find looking after your kids exhausting, imagine how they will feel!
  • Remember that looking after your children costs money From paying for petrol to forking out for a toddler swim session, don’t assume that grandparents can pick up every bill, especially if they’re on a limited income. Some families even choose to pay grandparents for their services.
  • Don’t fume with silent resentment If the grandparents aren’t feeding your little one how you’d like, or are too strict about things you’d let go, don’t bottle it up until you explode. Address issues early, and with sensitivity. You could even agree on a list outlining the basics, so everyone knows where they stand.
  • But don’t sweat the small stuff If granny isn’t 100% ‘on message’ about broccoli or treats – but most of what she does is great – let it go. Pick your battles, and credit your parents with some common sense.
  • Your partner’s mum and dad… This can work really well if the relationship gels, but many mums find their other half’s parents harder to handle than their own. To avoid confrontation, be clear about your expectations (like writing a list) and cut your parents-in-law extra slack. Remember: they love your children as much as you do, so even misguided decisions have their best interests at heart!

Tips for the grandparents…

  • Be positive Don’t criticise your grandchildren, or how they’re being brought up, however well meant – this will really shake a parent’s self-esteem. Remember that parenting techniques go in and out of fashion over the years, so there really is no right or wrong way to do it.
  • Constructive advice is ok but do offer it gently and supportively. Just make sure you know where that fine line is before you speak.
  • Help out around the house Whether it’s simply popping the kettle on, cooking dinner or offering to do the shopping and the laundry, any practical help will no doubt be greatly appreciated. Don’t worry, there will still be time for baby cuddles afterwards, but to an exhausted mum and dad, a cup of tea or a little less housework at the end of the day will make all the difference.
  • Keep an eye on the time Although you might want to stay and play with your grandchildren forever, be aware of how your son or daughter and their spouse may feel. You can always offer to stay longer and help out – especially if there’s something specific to do – but remember that they need time and space to themselves too.
  • If you’re the childcarer, don’t be afraid to set some ground rules and push back gently when necessary. If you’re doing it regularly, you might also need to ask for help with expenses – all those trips and treats can start to add up. It’s always better to talk about it and express and concerns you may have as soon as possible. Good luck!
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