WASHINGTON, May 28, 2016 — School is out for the summer. If you’re a grandparent, you may have a summer babysitting gig coming up.
Before you freak out, lock the doors and pull down the window shades, here are some easy tips to beat stress and help you make your grandchildren welcome when they show up on your doorstep.
First, set some ground rules. Kids need them, and so do you if you don’t want to be overwhelmed by your grandkids. You’ll all have more fun if everyone knows the rules. Set their length of stay; let them know how much input they have into choosing meals; set nap and bed times; establish rules for discipline with the parents; set chores and responsibilities; decide whether and when they’ll have access to internet, computers, tablets and other electronic devices.
Listen to the shared wisdom and experience of other grandparents in books and online, but remember that not all kids—or their parents—are exactly alike. Choose rules and routines that will work for you and your grandkids.
Keeping your grandchildren engaged during the day is important. Boredom will make kids miserable, and they’ll repay it by making life harder for you. Sometimes you can send them outside to play or sit them down with a book, but that doesn’t work as well as it did when you were a child. You’ll need to provide some guidance and some activities.
Your grandkids will take their idea of summer fun from TV or their friends. It will include computer games. They’ll have those on their tablets, smartphones or laptops. Does that mean that your interaction with them will be marginalized if you do not speak their digital game lingo? No it does not.
Remember, you are in charge of the babysitting landscape, but design it with input from your kids and your grandkids. Be flexible, but plan.
Within the constraints of your home and location, plan activities that are largely outdoors. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has found that today’s kids are four times less active than you were at their age. They need lots of outdoor, physical fun. This will keep them in shape, help them avoid obesity (three in ten American kids are obese), and help them sleep better at night.
Don’t ignore your own needs and schedule; keep your doctor appointments, and make sure that you have some “me time.” Don’t ignore your friends. Take the kids along for necessary errands like shopping. Have them help you with the gardening. Share your activities with them; the more real world experiences you can share, the more bonding time you’ll have.
How and what to prepare:
- Indoor preparation is important. If you have little ones, child proof the house in every room. Summer time babysitting, especially if it is overnight, is different than occasional drop in visits. Childproof the bathroom, closets, kitchen cabinets and restrict access to all cleaning chemicals and tools.
- Keep paper towels handy in every room where kids will eat or drink. There will be spills and dropped food. If you let them eat hamburgers near upholstery, know how to remove mustard and ketchup from upholstery.
- Create a relax time corner in your living room. Have an assortment of age-appropriate board games and books that you can join in with your grandchild. This is your opportunity to control the pace of the day. Make certain to schedule that relax time in a couple times during the day and before they turn in for bed.
- Outdoor preparation is equally as important. Gardens, tool sheds, swimming pools and shrubberies present hazards you might not think of, including things that bite, sting, are poisonous, or say “ni.”
- Know where local playgrounds and parks are, and plan out routes for neighborhood walks.
- Before you head out, prepare a small back pack to take with you. It should include your cell phone and charger, snacks, thermos for cold drinks, a favorite book and extra spray-on SPF 30 sunscreen. Also take sanitized hand wipes and bandaids.
- If you are planning to go to the library, zoo, bookstore or another type of public destination, let the parents know. Let the child have a say as well. The opportunity to choose the destination will be fun for them and you.
- Text the parents when you arrive and leave your destination. And if you’re doing something fun, text them pictures from your phone.
It is important for grandparents and grandchildren to create joyous, exciting memories that kids can pass on to their children. You are a role model, not a nanny or a warden. You can also be a friend in ways that parents can’t. Plan your time together, whether it is a day, a week or longer, with the specific goal to have fun and build bonds.
Don’t forget to take lots of photos and short videos. Now let the creativity flow and enjoy the summer.