Parents usually want the best for their kids, and this includes their childcare. For some families, grandparents volunteer to step in and take on childcare duties. There are a few things for both parents and grandparents to consider so that everyone has a positive experience, though.
Armed with a little information and a few ideas of what to talk about, families can navigate the idea of grandparents babysitting with ease.
Pros and Cons of Grandparents Babysitting
According to Care.com, "51% of parents say they spend more than 20% of their household income on child care." In fact, a survey found that in 2022, more than half of Americans paid over $10,000 for childcare. When you consider the fact that the average American income is just under $56,000, this cost can be hard for most families to take on.
For those who have grandparents offering to take on this duty, what are the advantages and disadvantages?
Childcare services are expensive. Grandparents can take away this burden and allow you to live a comfortable life with your family.
Considerations: When grandparents babysit, they are giving you their time. It's the parent's job to provide the money for any food, activities, gas, and supplies that are needed for your child's care. Talk to your parents about a budget that you can afford and make sure that they have a way to pay for these necessities. This may mean having cash or an extra credit card available for them to use each week.
One of the hardest parts of putting your child in daycare is trusting that they will be safe, loved, and cared for, just as they would be at home. When grandparents are babysitting, parents often lose a level of stress surrounding the decision to go back to work because they know their baby is in great hands. Not only that, your kids will also build an amazing bond with their grandparents and they will recieve undivided attention, something that does not occur in a group setting.
Considerations: You know your kids are safe when in your parent's care, but what are you comfortable with in terms of activities? Can your parents take your kids on errands or bring them along to lunch with friends? What about doctor's appointments? Do you want them to avoid sweets or watching television?
Your parents may feel comfortable bringing them to places outside of the home and giving them luxuries that you rarely permit. In contrast, a school or childcare program is required to always ask permission before making these types of decisions. Thus, both parents and grandparents need to have an open discussion about these topics to make certain that everyone is on the same page.
Early childhood programs bring a lot of germs. This means illness becomes a part of your regular routine. The Mayo Clinic notes that the average child can be sick up to 12 times a year when in childcare and school programs, with each of the illnesses lasting up to two weeks at a time. This means a lot of time away from work, making many parents question if the cost of childcare is even worth it.
When grandparents are babysitting, the instance of illness decreases tremendously. This means that you save money on doctor's visits, you can go to work more regularly, and your child will be happier and healthier throughout the year.
Considerations: It's important to consider your parent's willingness to get sick. Before they start regularly caring for your kids, talk to them about their expectations for when your baby comes down with an illness, and be receptive to their concerns. If they do not want to babysit while your child has a cold or the flu, respect that sentiment. Make it known that you want them to feel comfortable while helping you out and do not expect them to sacrifice their health for your benefit.
Also, think about your parent's age and activity level. Toddlers are a lot to handle - can they keep up? Talk to them about what they can and can't do.
Lastly, don't forget about kissing. Many grandparents see no issue with kissing babies on the mouth. During RSV season, this can have deadly ramifications. Make sure they are clear on your preferences. Similarly, grandparents who are considering taking on this task need to remember that this scenario goes both ways. If your child wants specific safety measures taken, like avoiding kissing their baby on the mouth, respect that decision as well.
Most daycare settings require that kids and workers be up to date on their vaccinations. This ensures that everyone stays healthy. Unfortunately, some grandparents and parents disagree on the decision to vaccinate or not vaccinate. Whatever side of the argument you land on, make sure that you are on the same page as your parents before they begin babysitting.
Considerations: If you are pro-vaccine, remind your parents that by taking the time to get themselves vaccinated, they are protecting their grandbaby and themselves. If they are anti-vaccine, then voice your opinion once and then respect their beliefs. If you need your caregiver to be vaccinated and your parents do not believe in these types of interventions, then you may need to research other care options.
Some grandparents may still work, and others may be retired. Either way, it's unfair to assume that they are available at all times. They have daily and weekly to-dos just like any other person and they may want to travel or take time off on the weekends and around the holidays. Conversely, school has a set schedule, so you are fully aware of when you have childcare and when you need to take off.
Considerations: One of the most important things to do when your parents agree to help with your kids is to sit down and discuss how much time they're willing and able to give. This is not something they have to do, it is something they want to do. Don't take advantage.
Once you have agreed upon a schedule that meets their needs, check in every few months. Is this arrangement still working for them? Are there changes that would make it easier on them? Additionally, at the start of every week, inquire about conflicts. Everyone has things that come up in life and they may feel uncomfortable asking. Be proactive. Ask questions and make adjustments to accommodate their needs.
One of the major disadvantages of grandparents babysitting is that your child misses out on socialization opportunities. Exposing your kids to play and learning settings early in life has great benefits. Research shows that these environments bolster social and language skills, enhance problem-solving abilities, and improve cognitive and emotional development.
Considerations: Ways to remedy this include signing your kids up for learning camps throughout the year, attending free events at your local library, maintaining memberships at museums and aquariums, and researching programs at local colleges and universities for young kids. Sports are also a great opportunity for kids to stay active, socialize, and learn how to function as part of a team.
These will not only give them ample opportunities for interactions with kids their own age, but they will also give grandparents a much needed break.
Everyone thinks their child is an angel, but unfortunately, there comes a time in every parent's life when reality doesn't match this fantasy. When this moment comes, how do you want your child to be disciplined? One of the biggest cons of a parent or relative watching your child is that they feel comfortable disciplining as they see fit.
The question is, what are you comfortable with? Do you condone spanking? Are timeouts the way you want to handle misbehavior? Can toys and snacks be taken away? Is washing their mouth out with soap allowed?
Considerations: Parents need to ponder how they were disciplined and if they want those methods of correction to continue. Make a clear-cut set of rules for how you want your parents to handle different issues that could arise. Then, make it known to your child that if they misbehave, you support their grandparent's decisions. You need to act as a united front.
"In my day..." Most people can hear their parents saying a version of this phrase. Control can be hard to relinquish. After all, these are the people who raised you. When grandparents babysit, they can sometimes step over lines that you would prefer they not cross. Transitioning to new foods, providing proper supervision, and putting your baby to sleep are all topics that can bring up differing opinions.
Considerations: Set expectations early and provide them with the tools they need to accomplish these goals. When they veer from your intended direction, remind them that while their methods were effective, you require different techniques for your child. Don't be afraid to stand up for your values and beliefs. Likewise, grandparents need to be receptive to and respectful of their kid's requests. These are your grandbabies, so your kids have the final say in how they are raised.
Should Grandparents Be Paid for Babysitting?
This will vary from family to family, but if grandparents are providing regular childcare, then offering pay is appropriate. Their time matters and they are choosing to gift it to you. Additionally, you get what you pay for - if you don't give them a dime, or even offer to do so, there might be potential issues in terms of expectations and rules.
In terms of the amount, this will depend on what your family can afford. If your budget is low, then consider getting them an extravagant gift at the holidays or pay them back by helping with tasks that are hard on them. These can include moving the lawn, doing maintenance on the car, or running errands each week. You want to make sure that no one feels like they are being taken advantage of and that you all benefit from this scenario.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you choose to pay your parents, keep in mind that taxes will be due for earnings of a certain threshold. If babysitting occurs in your home, you may have to report it as well. Talk to an accountant to make sure that you are following the laws in your state. If your family is looking to avoid these types of fees, then consider other options like buying their groceries every week or adding them to your phone bill as a form of payment.
Rules for Grandparents When Babysitting
They made you into the person you are today. You may love and trust your parents, but their style of parenting may differ from yours. If they are going to be with your kids eight hours a day (or even some other timeframe), it's important to discuss the specifics of raising your kids. Having rules in place can ensure that things go according to your plan.
Here are some of the key topics to discuss with grandparents before they start babysitting.
- Hours and days they will help with care
- Types of discipline that you are comfortable with, and what you are not
- Sleep schedules and sleep training regimens
- Feeding schedules and foods to avoid
- A schedule of their extracurricular
- Money for activities and outings (Let them know what you can afford to provide each week. If grandparents want to spend more, then it can come out of their budget.)
- Pay for regular childcare
Parents also need to remember that these are YOUR kids, not theirs. This makes it equally important to discuss their expectations in this scenario. If they can't give you eight hours a day or they are only available two days a week, that's still a generous offer. Show your appreciation.
Important Steps for Parents to Take
In order to care for your children effectively, it's important for you to provide your parents with the proper tools.
Decide on Location
First and foremost, decide if they will come to your home or if your kids will go to theirs. If it is the latter, then parents need to provide a place for their children to sleep, spare clothes, any medications they may require, feeding supplies, diapers, wipes, and a stroller for transporting the kids. Different forms of entertainment, like toys and games are also helpful.
No matter where the care will occur, grandparents will need access to a car seat. Even if they never plan to take your kids anywhere, in the case of an illness or an emergency, they always need to have a way to transport your child safely.
Discuss Medical Care and Emergencies
Another crucial task to complete is giving your parents the ability to make medical decisions for unforeseen moments when you're unreachable. This means contacting your children's various doctors and signing a child medical consent form. Parents also need to provide a detailed list of names, phone numbers, and addresses for their kid's doctors. This ensures that your parents know where to go in the event of an emergency.
Speaking of accidents, parents are also responsible for baby proofing the location where their kids will recieve care, so make sure that grandparents have everything they need and volunteer to install it yourself.
Make Plans for Alternative Childcare
Finally, parents always need to have an alternate form of care available. Grandparents get sick, and burnout can occur with any caregiver - including grandparents. Research shows that grandparents who babysit their grandkids live longer, but, it also found that by spending too much time babysitting, it can be a detriment to a grandparent's health. This means finding a happy medium.
If your parents care for your kids during the day, don't ask them to watch the kids at night or over the weekends. Also, make sure they are getting breaks regularly. Some parents have the option to work from home and stagger their work schedules. If you find yourself in this scenario, consider working more on the days that grandparents are available so that you can give them a good "work" and life balance.
Remember Their Role as Babysitter
Your parents have volunteered to watch your kids. This means ensuring that they are safe, fed, and taken to their required activities. That is it. They are not your maid. If there are dishes in the sink, toys strewn about, or laundry piling up, be an adult and take on the tasks of your household.
If grandparents aren't following the rules that you put in place, handle it as you would with any other form of hired help. Treat them with respect and face the issue head on. Be direct, otherwise they might misconstrue the meaning behind your conversation. When both parties show respect, this can turn into a fantastic experience that benefits everyone!