window grandmother

If you’re one of the many fortunate parents of children that have their grandparents living nearby, you’re probably already using grandparents for childcare.

The recent Coronavirus has prompted a level of disruption to family life never seen before. The closure of schools, shops, and nurseries, has placed a huge strain on hundreds of thousands of parents globally.

For many parents, coping with life before the coronavirus meant using grandparents for childcare.

There are reportedly over 250,000 young children in the UK that live with their grandparents, with over 5 million grandparents taking on childcare responsibilities. 

Grandad looking after newborn

The vast majority of grandparents in the UK provide regular care for their grandchildren (at least once a week). The benefits of keeping childcare in the family, for both the grandparents and the child, are widely reported.

Childcare can keep grandparents physically and mentally active and help enormously in removing the feelings of loneliness. It can also provide a grandparent with a sense of purpose.

Toddlers and young children both benefit from time spent with their grandparents, who often play the role of confidant to help manage problems. Being a grandparent is a vital part of society and provides children with a strong bond of love, especially through difficult times.

Many grandparents play a key role in their grandchildren’s lives, but regular childcare can place an enormous amount of pressure on their shoulders. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help reduce childcare stress and make the whole experience much better for your child.

If you’re one of the many parents that receive support from your child’s grandparents, you can help make life much easier for them by following these simple tips:

#1: Make sure they are not over-stretching themselves 

Grandparents will often say yes to every request.

Make sure you are aware of the health and mental limitations of your child’s grandparents. If everyone is honest and sensible about what’s realistic it will help you avoid conflict, but more importantly, it will keep your child’s grandparents safe.

Grandparents get sick. Always have a plan B for the times that they may not be well enough to take care of your child.

Grandmother looking after toddler

#2: Build-in breaks that are not just around school holidays

Think about the bigger picture when it comes to giving grandparents a break.

Try to factor in some individual annual leave days that help break up the schedule for your child’s grandparents. Don’t wait to be asked and never assume your parents will even ask for a rest.

#3: Share your routines and rules

Consistency is key for your children. Share your routines with your child’s grandparents so there is no confusion for your child. Sharing routines will also help your child’s grandparents understand the boundaries of what is and what is not acceptable behaviour.

When your child is at nursery, or pre-school, you’re expected to pack their bag with all their daily essentials. These essentials include wipes, nappies, a change of clothes, and in some cases snacks. Lots of people forget these essentials when they leave their children with grandparents. They are family after all. What could go wrong?

You don’t want to treat your child’s grandparents like employees. But you should be very clear on your child’s routines and where all their essentials can be found. Make sure that your child’s grandparents know where to go when they need to change a nappy and be sure that everything they need will be ready and available for them.

Be clear on what snacks can be given at what time and where to find them. Leave a note on covering lunchtime and make sure they have all the ingredients to make lunch.

If you do not outline your child’s normal routines, or fail to set aside the essentials, you will create a confused child and stressed out grandparents. Should your grandparents be coming to your house, then make sure your fridge has food for your children and your house is kept clean.

Never place a grandparent in a position where they feel they need to go shopping and clean your house whilst you are at work.

#4: Consider paying your child’s grandparents

Most grandparents won’t accept any payment to look after their grandchildren. But sometimes providing them with some extra cash can make their life a little easier. Although your parents might not want money, you should recognise the work they’re doing and the sacrifices they may be making.

If paying them for their help is going to be difficult, consider other ways to compensate them for their support and generosity. Think about the types of gifts you could provide for them that would really make a positive impact on their life.

#5: Help them to childproof their home

If your child stays with your grandparents at their home, it is important you help them childproof their home.

You should also make sure that your child’s grandparents have any important mobile contact num­bers written out by their landline and programmed into their mobiles.

Child_Proof_toys

Toys

  • Don’t expect your child’s grandparents to buy toys for your child. If your child has favourite toys it can be helpful to buy duplicates and leave these at their grandparents home.
  • It’s always worth reminding grandparents about age-appropriate safe toys and the developmental level of your child.
  • Make sure there are no old toys that may have small removable parts. Grandparents love to share old toys which might not pass today’s standards and prove to be dangerous for your child.

Sleeping Area Or Nursery

If your child is of an age where they sleep in a cot then you should purchase one for your child’s grandparents to store in their home.

  • Try to avoid using a makeshift cot, or worse, a very old cot that no longer meets today’s safety standards.
  • Consider purchasing a changing table to store at your grandparents.
  • Don’t allow your child to sleep in a grandparent’s bed.

Inside Their House

  • Make sure you have smoke detectors throughout the house.
  • If they have animals then pet food should be stored away.
  • Fire extinguish­ers should be installed.
  • Baby gates will be needed at both ends of their stairs.
  • Cover up the edges of any sharp furniture.

Feeding And Mealtimes

  • If needed, leave a spare high chair at your child’s grandparents to make mealtimes safer and more manageable.
  • Demonstrate how the safety straps of the highchair work.

Safety Outside of the Home

  • If your child’s grandparents want to take your child out in their car, buy a car seat for them and make sure they know how to use it.
  • Leave a spare pushchair at your child’s grandparents if they like to take a daily walk or will be taking your child to the shops.
  • Gardens can be a serious hazard for toddlers so make sure you check over any gardens where your toddler is likely to be playing.
  • Swimming pools and ponds are very dangerous places for toddlers so it goes without saying that these should be covered/protected if necessary.

Kitchens And Safety

  • Buy locks and install them in the kitchen. Cleaning products and sharp cooking instruments should be locked away and out of reach.
  • Think about electrical cords. Sometimes the electrical equipment found in grandparent’s homes can be very old and not a great state of repair.
  • Make sure your child’s grandparents know what food is suitable for microwaving.

Bathrooms

  • Prescription and all other medi­cations, and equipment, should be locked and out of reach.
  • If you are expecting your child’s grandparents to bathe your child then you need to purchase a child-friendly bath and cover up any handle rails with soft materials.
  • Remind your child’s grandparents that they should never leave your little person unattended in the bathroom.
  • If your toddler is potty trained consider purchasing the same potty and leaving this at their grandparent’s home for continuity.
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