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Help for Grandparents When Grandchildren Come to Stay

Six Problems and Some Creative Solutions

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Of course grandparents love to babysit grandchildren. What could be more fun? At least it's fun until the grandchildren turn into picky eaters or throw a tantrum. Try these common-sense solutions to six of the most frequent issues, or go for more creative tactics.

1. Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is common among young children, even when they are staying with grandparents.
Photo © Jake Wyman / Getty

Almost every child has some fear of being separated from parents. The toughest time for most kids is when the parents drop them off. It's best if grandparents play it cool when the grandkids arrive. Greet them, but don't rush at them or immediately try to take them from their parents.

A Creative Solution: Have a basket of toys near the door so that it will be the first thing that the grandkids see. Chances are that they won't be able to cling to their parents too long because they'll be drawn to check out the toys. Resist the temptation to pick up a toy and use it as a lure. Let them discover the toys on their own.

2. Sleepytime

When grandchildren sleep over, bedtime can be a difficult time for grandparents.
Photo © C. Burns

Naptime and bedtime can be rough spots for both grandchildren and grandparents. Often grandparents are too tired, and grandchildren aren't tired enough! Active play will help children be ready to rest. It's important to have a going-to-sleep routine, which can include singing, reading books or watching a favorite video. Have a few cuddly toys on hand for children past the infant stage.

A Creative Solution: Try listening to a children's audio book. Although reading books to grandchildren is great, children often struggle to keep their eyes open so that they can see the pictures.

3. Fear of Bathing

Some grandchildren do not like to bathe in the grandparents' tub.
Photo © Patrick Bennett / Getty

Most children love taking baths, especially with lots of toys in the mix. A few children, however, will be anxious about bathing in an unfamiliar area. Sometimes the noise of the water rushing into the tub intimidates them. Try running the water first, then putting toys into the water to entice them in. If that doesn't work, put some toys in the sink and try to pull off a quick sponge bath. Older children may prefer showers, especially if that is what they are accustomed to at home. The most important thing to remember is that an occasional skipped bath won't do any harm.

A Creative Solution: When an older grandchild doesn't want to bathe, offer a 1-2-3 shower, which simply means a super quick wash. Cover long hair or put it in a bun so it doesn't get wet. Then soap, rinse and it's done.

4. Food Issues

When grandchildren are picky eaters, what are grandparents to do.
Photo © Camille Tokerud / Getty
The babysitting issue that troubles my grandparent friends the most is feeding the grandchildren. Many older people are into healthy eating, and they want their grandchildren to eat healthful diets, too. The problem is that a grandparent's diet is often miles away from a kid's diet. Parents can be asked to bring food for the kids, but it's nice if grandparents can work out feeding strategies that will make such measures unnecessary. Try making a menu of suitable foods and letting the kids choose. Having control over food helps children who are anxious about dining choices.

A Creative Solution: Let picky eaters make two lists. One should contain the most disliked foods, ones that they will never be asked to eat. The other lists foods that they will eat without question. For this strategy, it's good to limit the foods on the "no" list and to have a minimum number that must appear on the "yes" list. It's also smart to get the parents on board with this tactic.

5. Home Wreckers

Grandchildren can make some big messes at their grandparents' houses.
Photo © K. Hatt / Getty
When active children are around, some property damage is likely to occur. Expecting older grandchildren to have respect for your property is altogether reasonable. That is one of the five areas where grandparents do have some say-so, especially on their own premises. Picking up and cleaning up after the grandchildren can be a bigger problem than actual breakage. Start early expecting them to pick up their toys and help with small chores. You may find that they actually enjoy helping you. Also, spend as much time outdoors as possible. After all, they can't wreck your house when they are at the playground.

A Creative Solution: Turn picking up into a game. Set a timer and see if you can complete a clean-up task and "beat the clock."

6. Tantrums and Meltdowns

Photo © Leslie Sanderson
Most children occasionally have tantrums, and some have full-fledged meltdowns. Hunger, fatigue and over-stimulation increase the likelihood of such events, but it's not always possible to avoid them. If you have grandchildren who are prone to tantrums or meltdowns, ask the parents how they would like for you to handle the situation. It's also beneficial to understand the differences between the two events. Tantrums are at heart manipulative behavior. The child wants something. It's best, of course, not to give in and to ignore the behavior as much as possible. A meltdown, on the other hand, occurs when a child is overwhelmed in some way. The emotions are controlling the child rather than vice versa. It doesn't work to try to reason with a child in the middle of a meltdown. It may help to take the child to a quiet place, or it may help to listen, but you may have to wait it out. Children on the autism spectrum are especially prone to meltdowns, but they may occur with other children as well. Creative solutions for meltdowns are hard to come by. If you have one, please submit it below.

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