Written by Alice Zsembery
The coming of a New Year for parents of preschoolers signifies many things; a start (or new room) at childcare, negotiation of days at work and/or juggling kinder hours. For so many of us, this juggle is simply not possible without the regular support of grandparents who now, according to ABS 2017, constitute up to 30.5% of care for preschool-aged kids.
So how do we ensure a positive caring arrangement and help out these generous individuals who so often refuse any sort of payment?
Here are some of my top tips:
- Be respectful of money
Many grandparents will refuse being paid to mind their own grandchildren.
However, we should not simply assume that they have the financial means to look after our children on a regular basis.
Here are some easy ways to help a grandparent out:
- Maintain (and replenish) a supply of essentials such as nappies and wipes at their house
- Pack lunch/snacks for kids
- Send your child along with their own wallet to ‘treat’ grandparents to a coffee and cake at the local shops
- Consider Mobility
Grandparents vary in their confidence, ability and willingness to venture out of the house with kids, particularly preschoolers.
It is, therefore, useful to have a frank chat with grandparents about what they are comfortable with and then support them in that.
For example, if they are happy to get out of the house with kids then consider:
- Providing a car seat for them.
- Providing a pram that is lightweight and easy to fold and lift in/out of car (we found it easier to buy a secondhand one to keep with Nanna)
If they prefer to stay around the home, then consider providing some toys or activities to assist (whilst being mindful not to clutter). This might include playdough, sticker books, puzzles and a bike for the backyard.
Of course, Real Kids, Real Play is also an excellent resource for grandparents to provide play inspiration using household items.
- Additional Resources
Remember that grandparents may themselves need support and may not be aware of all the wonderful resources available within their own community. Create a folder with printouts of relevant support, which might include:
- Local library story times
- Toy library opening times
- Free activities at local museums
- Local kid-friendly cafes
- Emergency phone numbers, like poisons hotline and nurse on call
It may also be worth providing them with a membership card to the museum/zoo/play centre/toy library to assist.
- Actively Listen and regularly check in
The fact is that many grandparents are over 70 and situations and health can change quickly.
At regular intervals, be sure to check in on the following:
- What challenges are they facing with the children?
- Is there anything that you can provide to assist?
- Are they still happy with the current arrangement or does something need to be altered? (length of time, number of kids at one time, regularity etc)
Remember, above all, the key to ensuring a positive grandparent-childcare experience for both parties is communication.
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