The Generation Gap: When Grandparents are Caregivers
In so many ways, having a grandparent as a sometime caregiver is a win-win-win. It's a win for grandparents who love spending time with their grandkids. It's a win for grandkids who get to bond with doting grandparents. And it's a win for parents who have the peace of mind knowing their kids are in familiar, loving hands. But sometimes, grandparents aren't exactly familiar with current safety or parenting techniques, like the right position to put a baby to sleep (on its back) or whether or not padded crib bumpers are recommended (they're not). It can be hard to make sure your parents know how you want things done without making them feel like you're criticizing or micromanaging them - but it's crucial to make sure your kids' safety isn't at stake. Here's how to start the conversation without stepping on a land mine:
- Make it mutual. You and your parents both want the same thing: For your kids to be safe, happy and healthy. So approach it from that angle rather than making it sound as if you feel that their every instinct is mistaken. Chances are they haven't cared for babies or small children in a while, so share with them your favorite books, magazines or websites. They'll probably be amazed at how much things have changed.
- Talk about it instead of issuing demands. Instead of simply laying down the law, which might lead to hurt feelings or misunderstandings, try to ask open-ended questions and involve them in the conversation. If they don't agree with your suggestion, you'll still have to reinforce your wishes, but do so in a way that shows you respect their opinion.
- Play nice. Remember that as much as grandparents love spending time with their grandchildren, they're still helping you out. Letting them know how much you appreciate their efforts will go a long way toward opening lines of communication when you have to make safety decisions.
- You're still the parent. Sometimes you can let things slide - but sometimes, you'll simply have to lay down the law. Remember that ultimately, you need to be the one in charge. Make sure your parents know it's not about them, it's about your child.