Grandparents, whether seniors or future seniors, rank being with their grandchildren among their greatest pleasures.
I have the honor of being a grandparent and know how much I love the kisses and hugs I get when I visit my granddaughter, not to mention the joy in her eyes when she sees me approaching or even calling on Facetime.
Grandparents who live nearby may be able to visit their grandchildren often, unlike those who are at a distance and get to visit when someone makes a trip.
Spending time with grandchildren can give seniors happiness — and more. A recent study says it can also improve their cognition. However, being close by and watching grandkids (or great-grandchildren) can be unhealthy when done too often or long, such as when it becomes daycare and is relied on by working parents.
I know a family with four generations where child, mom, grandma all live together with great-grandma nearby. The mom and grandma care for the great-grandma who struggles to age in place. The mom and grandma are both working and use great-grandma to care for the child for after school care. The situation is a often sticky one for this family and could be more than the great-grandma can handle.
Cognitive Improvement for Grandparents Who Babysit
Grandmothers who babysit (the study participants were grandmothers but we know grandfathers watch kids too!) grandchildren one day a week showed improvements in cognitive functioning, scoring higher on tests given.
However, if grandmothers watched the grandkids five or more days a week, they did significantly poorer on the same tests of cognition. These women reported feeling as though the parents of the kids (their own children) were more demanding by asking for frequent babysitting.
While some babysitting is enjoyable and a great social interaction stimulating their brain function, too much seemed overwhelming among this study’s participant.
Grandparent Babysitting Strategies
Sharing special moments, teaching them a skill no one else can teach, singing songs, playing games and cooking family favorites are times that grandparents and the grandkids cherish. Both benefit when multi-generational activities occur. Our senior loved ones (and us too) long to have someone to mold and help bring youth back into our lives.
It is best however not to overdo it either watching them too long at one time, too often throughout the course of a week or physically overextending through activities.
- Make sure you know the ‘rules’ that the kids are supposed to follow so that they don’t try to push or trick grandparents into letting them do things they aren’t supposed to do, such as cook for themselves or watching certain unauthorized programs. Some of these “unapproved by mom” activities could put an undue strain on the grandparents physically and mentally, not to mention their safety issues.
- Be aware of the foods that might be off limits, such as junk foods or any to which the children might be allergic or that the parents just think are not appropriate or unsafe. This can be another unnecessary cause of stress for the family.
- Be aware of toys that can get underfoot so that no accidental trip or fall occurs during the babysitting experience, resulting in injury to our senior loved ones.
- Try not to offer advice or criticize the parents for the things you think they may be doing wrong with respect to child raising. They just want your love not your opinions (unless they ask). Emotional conflicts aren’t healthy for grandparents’ blood pressure and mood.
- Discuss whether or not payment is expected or reimbursement for any money spent for food or activities, such as movie tickets or zoo admission. Unmet expectations can lead to hurt feelings or inability to meet budget for the month, resulting in difficult choices later between food and medicine.
- Know what will happen and who should be called if the child or the grandparent gets sick during the visit. Does everyone know correct emergency contact numbers and who is providing “backup” when needed? Knowing the plan will help everyone relax and feel confidant.
- Ensure your senior knows where everything is kept that might be needed in the child’s home so your senior doesn’t have to spend valuable time and energy rummaging for supplies, not to mention possibly leaving the child unsupervised.
- Be able to honestly assess if the children are too active for the grandparents to keep up with for everyone’s safety. An older adult shouldn’t be expected to run after a busy toddler or keep track of a socially active teenager. They shouldn’t have to cart around heavy equipment or even a young child who refuses to walk if they have their own physical limitations.
The family will enjoy spending time with each when the stress and expectations are kept in check.
Many of our favorite memories involve the time spent with our grandparents growing up so let’s all make the best of the situation for the kids and the grandparents.