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Saturday 22 Jun 2024

How to Help Grandkids
Hilary Thompson

Today, parenting is not only physically and mentally grueling, but also complex. The fast pace of modern child rearing has parents in constant flux, as parents navigate new data and ideas, such as free-range versus helicopter parenting, gluten-free versus keto snacks, daycare versus a nanny. These new challenges-of and forays-into child rearing also force grandparents to adjust their approaches.

New expectations for grandparents.

It’s no longer enough to model your grand-parenting style on the parents of your parents. Nannies or Papas, today, aren’t satisfied being the kindly older folks who slip sweets into pockets or send birthday cards stuffed with cash. Instead, they support their sons and daughters by keeping up with trends in parenting and technology. After all, raising your grandchild is the responsibility of grandparents, too, who can stay on top of the game by following five grand-parenting tips.    

Childproof Your Home. If you’ve been an empty nester for a while, your home may need some serious childproofing. A home can quickly revert to that of a single person after years or even years of having it your way. So, start with the basics to childproof your home.

Install safety latches on your cabinets. Use electrical outlet covers around the house. Cover sharp corners with padded bumpers. Invest in a safety gate to close off areas, such as stairwells. Store cleaning products and other poisonous materials out of reach.

Along with these basic precautions, consider other threats that appeared when you were kid-free. For example, you’re probably taking more medication, now. Aside from keeping your prescription bottles stowed, make sure you vacuum and inspect floors before a grandbaby visit. It’s easy for a blood thinner pill to roll off the kitchen table or find itself embedded in the carpet. And when, not if, you’re crawling grandbaby finds that orphaned pill, it’s going straight into his or her mouth. 

Pets and visiting grandchildren.

What do you do with your pets? Are your little fur babies ready for a new member of the family? Never assume your pet will be fine around your grandchild. They could injure your grandchildren by biting, scratching or knocking them over, inadvertently. Perhaps your grandbaby is allergic to pet dander. Loud barks are also stressful for newborns.

Update Your Vaccinations. Yes, those inoculations you got as a child are still required, if not more so, as you age. Updating your vaccinations will keep you from infecting your grandbaby. Vaccination boosters will also keep you healthy, so you’re able to enjoy more time with them.

Recommended adult immunization schedules for older adults include booster shots for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) as well as measles, mumps, rubella (MMR). Check with your physician ahead of your grandbaby’s birth to update all your vaccinations. Plus, you should be getting your annual flu shot; if not, start now. The influenza virus can be deadly for older folks and infants.

If the parents of your grandchild don’t believe in vaccinations, the stakes are even higher. Measles, ostensibly eradicated in 2000, is now back because some parents stopped vaccinating their children. Although you may not be able to allay their fears about the unconfirmed link between Autism and vaccinations, for example, you can at least protect your grandchildren from these diseases by vaccinating yourself.   

Screen time remains a concern.

Monitor Their Screen Time. How much time children spend in front of the television and electronic devices is a hot button issue. Too many hours staring into an iPad or smartphone screen is likely stunting to the cognitive development of a child. Screen time can interfere with the natural proclivity to explore the real world.

This doesn’t mean you have to schlep the television to the basement every time your grandchild visits. If you moderate their screen time and choose enriching programmes and apps, you’ll actually engage them in healthy activities. After all, there’s much more to the internet than playing Candy Crush.  

Current recommendations suggest babies younger than eighteen months have zero screen time. Toddlers, eighteen to twenty-four months can start to watch with a parent or caregiver. Parents should limit children aged two to three to one hour per day. These are guidelines. You should, follow the rules set forth by the parents. 

Invoke your long-distance game. Chances are your grandchild lives at least a few hours away. If so, don’t let the long distances keep you from being part of his or her life. Sure, you’ll probably see them for birthdays or holidays. What of their first steps, did you see them? What of a newly finished art project for kindergarten? To build a close relationship, you need to be there for these moments too. Phone calls limit contacts and texts even more so.

Video chat apps, such as Skype, Facetime or Google Duo let you and your grandchild engage face-to-face. See their missing tooth and celebrate their first visit from the Tooth Fairy. Let them see your excited face after opening the birthday present you mailed. Pictures are worth a thousand words and video is immeasurable when it comes to strengthening emotional bonds with grandchildren.

Help develop the brain of your grandbaby. The funny faces, silly sounds and peek-a-boo games you play with your grandchild may seem like simple games. These small engagements are extremely valuable to their cognitive development.

The brain of a newborn contains hundreds of billions of nerve cells, ready for activation. During the first few years of life, she or he spends connecting them all. These brain connections take stimulation, exploration and engagement with the environment and your contacts are a critical part of that process.

Grandparents have an opportunity to effect a newborn baby’s brain growth by engaging them with games, toys and music that fits their current development stage.

Newborns have limited eyesight and thus enjoy looking at high contrast images. Most brick-and-mortar and online baby stores sell mobiles, books, and flashcards with high contrast images designed to stimulate a newborn’s brain. Montessori toys, in particular, have a unique effect on the way infant brains develop.

There’s a distinction between helpful and nuisance.

When executing these five grandparenting tips and others, remember you serve a supporting role. Your relationship with your grandchild is critical. But don’t try to be a second parent. There’s a fine line between being helpful and being a nuisance. At the end of the day, take your cues from the parents. They may not be perfect, but they’re working hard to keep it together in a fast-paced world. Luckily, they have you to help.

Hilary Thompson is an active freelance writer, on the environment and business. She is a mother of two. She runs on coffee and fumes.

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