You want to be the best grandparent you can be. But what would have earned you the title Grandparent of the Year 20 years ago is different from what’s expected of you today. Across the country, 2.7 million grandparents are stepping in for parents—a 7 percent increase since 2009.
“A lot of children are also being cared for during the week while their parents work,” said Kathryn Self, M.D., with Carilion Children’s Pediatric Medicine in Rocky Mount. “And for many grandparents, it’s been years since they had children in their home.”
Baby-proofing the house is the first thing Dr. Self recommends.
“Lock away your medicines and make sure the house is safe for kids to explore,” she said. “Get down on the floor and see what babies or children might find interesting, like a tall floor lamp they could push over.”
When it comes to sleep, practices have definitely changed.
“We now tell grandparents who used to put their own kids to sleep on their tummies to put them on their backs,” said Dr. Self. “New research shows it’s safer.”
Other new recommendations include:
- Wait to introduce solid food at six months
- Do not give water to babies younger than six months
- Do not put cereal in baby bottles to help babies sleep. Use a spoon instead.
- Make sure kids wear helmets when riding a bike or scooter—anything on wheels
- Place car seats facing the rear for kids up to 2-years-old
“Sometimes grandparents are overwhelmed to hear all the changes, but they’re glad for the information,” said Dr. Self. “Just because it was done one way before doesn’t mean it’s the best way.”
It’s also important that grandparents and parents be on the same page, and that rules in their homes be similar.
“Grandparents often like to spoil their grandkids with sweet treats, for instance, but we tell them to limit the sugar,” said Dr. Self. “It’s just not good for them.”
One thing that will never go out of fashion, though, is showing love for your grandkids. Every child needs that emotional security and bond. After all, have you ever heard of a child who was hurt by getting too much love?
If you are about to become a new grandparent or just want to brush up on what’s new, search "grandparenting" on our wellness calendar for our Grandparenting Today class.