How to babysit grandchildren for the first time
21st November 2017
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
Babysitting grandchildren is one of the great joys about being a grandparent. Spending time with the little ones can be tremendous fun and rewarding in so many ways. However, grandparents who have yet to babysit for their children’s children might be a little timorous about the prospect, especially as this will likely be the first time they’ve looked after small children for quite some time. But fear not, this guide is here to guide grandparents along, offering tips and advice for babysitting grandchildren for the first time.
Tips and Advice from Comfort Life
Jim Huinink of Comfort Life, a Canadian company who have been helping people make good decisions about retirement since 2002, has a lot of very interesting and pertinent advice for grandparents when it comes to babysitting their grandchildren. Jim was happy to offer his advice for publication in this article, which includes tips on being prepared, dealing with generational differences, and having patience.
“I would suggest that one focus for people babysitting grandchildren for the first time is patience” says Jim. “I have heard from friends (the generation in the middle) that they found their parents did not have patience with grandchildren.”
Is babysitting a job?
“It might be helpful for first time babysitters to think of this as a job. And they need to be good at it, in order to keep the job. So, they need to provide the right kind of care to their grandchildren.”
Embrace cultural changes
“Another thing that grandparents will need to think about is the change in culture, where children today have much more self-confidence in general, and are much more forthright in their expectations of how they will be treated. Some grandparents think that younger generations have too much of a sense of privilege. This may be true from a grandparent's perspective but it's probably not helpful to change this. Grandparents are the ones who need to adapt to this change in culture.”
Jim and Comfort Life also champion the act of preparation. Preparation is always a smart idea, no matter the circumstance. So it should go without saying that preparation is also key when it comes to babysitting.
Make sure to know what the kids enjoy playing with, what toys they like, or books they enjoy reading. Having this knowledge, and the necessary items ready for them, will make babysitting even more enjoyable, and a smooth transition for all involved. Preparation can also include making sure the right sleeping conditions are met, such as having a baby crib ready for any younger children being looked after, therefore creating a familiar environment for the little ones.
“Preparation is very important,” Jim says. “Grandparents should know their grandchildren's different moods and different responses to different situations. They should know how to deal with different situations. As I said above, it might be helpful for grandparents to think of this as a job, for which they should prepare, and for which they need to do what is expected.
“The relationship between grandparent and grandchild can be very special and can develop into something very rich, but only if the grandparent focuses on loving values in building that relationship. Those values are expressed in patience, kindness, and gentleness, above all else.”
Safety is paramount
Safety is always important and this is doubly true when it comes to looking after grandchildren. Grandparents will want to make sure that their house is as safe as possible before kids come over, after all, bumps and scrapes from sharp objects is not a desirable outcome.
Grandparents can also help to ensure safety by speaking with the children and letting them know (depending on how old they are) the dos and don’ts of the house. This could include asking them not to climb on indoor stairlifts, helping to avoid any falls that might occur.
Parents.com have a nice guide for how to childproof your home for those looking for some in-depth advice.
Another sensible move would be to have all the appropriate telephone numbers ready. It is important to ensure you have contact information for the parents (including mobile numbers), children’s doctors, friends, neighbours, and anyone else that might need to be contacted in case of emergency.
Team up if possible
Babysitting grandchildren can be a little stressful at times, especially when the children outnumber the grandparents. Therefore try and work as a team during their stay. For spouses, this will of course come naturally, but for single grandparents, consider asking a friend (approved by the parent of course) to come and lend a hand. Solo babysitting isn’t impossible, but making things just that little bit easier is never a bad idea.
Know the parents’ rules
While the children will be under the care and responsibility of grandparents during their stay, parents still know best and their rules should be abided by as much as is possible. Respecting the parents’ wishes such as bed times, culinary requirements, time exposed to TV, etcetera, not only will help the children feel more at home – as they are accustomed to their normal routine – but won’t go against what the parents are trying to achieve with their children.
Be aware of separation anxiety
At around six months of age, some children can begin to show signs of separation anxiety. This is where babies become anxious about not being with their parents, causing them to perhaps act out against their grandparents. It’s important to be aware of this and know that if this happens, the child isn’t unhappy being with the grandparent but is experiencing a normal part of their development. This is a temporary occurrence that the child will grow out of, but can make things a little difficult while it lasts.
Be well rested
As mentioned, babysitting grandchildren can be tiring, especially for those not used to the process. Kids are very energetic after all, so grandparents will do well to try and be as rested as possible. That means no late nights the day before and just taking it easy up until the kids’ arrival, making sure that there is plenty of energy to spare to enjoy some quality time together.
Encourage active play to tire them out
When children start to get a little older, their energy levels of course increase. So having them sit around all day watching TV may have some adverse effects. To combat restlessness, make sure to encourage active play during their stay. If a garden is available, and the weather is nice, try and get them to play outside, providing equipment for outdoor games such as balls, water pistols and so on to help tire them out a little. This will be particularly helpful when it comes to getting the children to bed and having them fall asleep at the appropriate time.
Know your environment
While grandparents will have likely visited their grandchildren’s home on many occasions, it’s not the same as babysitting in that environment. Grandparents will realise very quickly that they don’t know the environment as well as their own home, which could lead to a number of issues. So make sure to take a look around, know the hazards, where the steps are, slippery rugs, and where all the various things are located that one might need over the course of a day, night, and weekend.
Know their eating likes and dislikes
Many individuals are picky eaters. This is true for adults as well as children, but kids can be particularly so, therefore it’s a good idea to know their likes and dislikes beforehand. Speak to the child’s parents, ask them what they like to eat, perhaps more importantly what they don’t like, and that way any frustrating situations such as rejected meals or dinner time tantrums can hopefully be avoided.
Know their routine
Familiarising oneself with the child’s routine is hugely important, as the more knowledgeable a grandparent is about their grandchild’s day to day habits, the better prepared they will be to babysit them, no matter the length of time. Again, speaking with the parents beforehand to know what time they are expected to be in bed, when they normally eat dinner, and watch TV, will go a long way towards making the time a grandparent and grandchild spend together as wonderful as it should be.
By following the above guidance and putting some of these tips into practice, grandparents will find the act of babysitting their grandchildren a wonderful experience and something to enjoy for many years to come.