Having grandparents looking after your child can be seen as a luxury these days when childcare is expensive and when the average age of first time grandparents is 47 years of age. Securing Grandparents is half the battle. Firstly they need to be healthy and able-bodied and secondly they need to be local. Catch them before they sell up all their worldly goods because they have spent too much time waiting to be a grandparent, they’ve just given up and are now escaping for a grey nomadic life travelling Australia in a white convertible van.
So if you have lined up Grandparent care understand it’s been a while since they had their time to shine as parents and despite the stories of you as a magnificent child and the reflected glory of their parenting, there may be one or two bumps in the road and our top 5 might help you open a delicate conversation with the oldies, woops sorry, the Grandparents.
- Grandparents who put the ‘Grand’ in care – ‘Grand’ Grandparents over indulge and obsess about many areas of parenting. Packed and scheduled days out at the local ‘educational’ playgroup followed by, nanna nosh at their favourite café (wholefoods of course) and a toy/book/animal/lamp or miscellaneous item your Master or Miss has inadvertently pointed to the way out the door. There is no doubt that every want and need of this small person is being addressed in a timely manner but a toy a day won’t keep the doctor away or the debt collectors when the expectation leads to conditioning and it’s “where’s my toy Grandad?” I can hear the collective cringe of society as another over-indulged child is churned out. So before you get paranoid about them becoming used to a life of consumption, the ‘me’ mentality and life as a baby narcissist maybe you should just set some boundaries in an honest, non-threatening, non-paranoid way. After all, they just love them to bits.
- Great Expectations – “Sure I can look after Harry when you go back to work,” said Grandma. “Great,” says Harry’s mum, “I’ll drop him off at 6:00am Monday.” “Ahhhh, on second thoughts…..” said Grandma. Communication is the key here. Grandparents aren’t used to having a grandchild for a whole day and parents know more than anyone else how tiring it can be. Parenting is not always like getting back on your bike, yes you can interact with children and change a nappy but does Grandma know the sleep routine and portion size appropriate to their age? Just fully brief them even if they tell you they know what they are doing. Your parents WILL also need holidays, and they may even have their own planned, they will also need sick days. Don’t abuse the love or there could be some real issues that appear.
- Food – Grandparents are synonymous with sweet treats. We can’t tar everyone with the same brush but grandparents show their love in many ways and for some it may be the ‘sweet treats’. At home you may be very strict with your child’s diet, keeping everything organic and home-made. The point is you may make different choices to your parents and that’s ok but they aren’t mind readers, you have to spell things out early on. Write up a little daytime schedule of sleeps, food so as not to have snacks close to dinner and provide them with information like leaflets from community health on nutrition. To make it easier for Grandma and Grandad make the lunches yourself to avoid any concerns, and talk to them when issues arise. ‘Sometimes’ treats can be great but when you are dealing with a bath-resistant toddler coming down off a sugar high, you will wish you had said something earlier.
- Safety – The chess set, the low medicine drawer, the porcelain figurines and the glass coffee table….arrrgh! Unless you want the Grandparent’s to file an insurance claim in the first week start with an audit on their home. As a parent you know once the little ones get their legs you have to up your game to keep up with little fingers in doors, reaching items they previously couldn’t and climbing up onto of things with their new found talents. Check out your local Kidsafe charity in your state as they have some fabulous resources on children’s safety in the home. http://www.kidsafe.com.au/
5. Parenting and Education – The focus for childcare these days isn’t just care it’s care plus early education. We have a National Quality Framework which helps establish all the conditions to help children Under 5 to “be, belong and become”. Early years educators these days have minimum qualifications and engage children even as young as babies in play-based learning. Research has provided evidence that the first 5 years are absolutely crucial in brain development, so we need to make the most of it. That’s not to say Grandparents can’t ‘educate’ your children, it’s that we may need to educate the Grandparents in how to educate children in a play-based learning. In
early years education it’s all about ‘scaffolding’. When you see a child writing their name at school, the foundations for that activity came from activities like painting, seeing their name written down at school, building hand strength through activities such as using scissors. Singing the alphabet, doing matching activities like ‘A’ is for Apple for letter recognition. We now have a Kindergarten program which supports the emotional development such as making friends, sharing, managing transition. Getting the grandparents to have a day out at PlayGroup can be great for them and great for your child.
The government has established a new site called Starting Blocks to help you when you start looking into quality childcare for your children.