How to ensure ‘grandparent’ doesn’t become ‘free babysitter’ over the holidays

How to ensure ‘grandparent’ doesn’t become ‘free babysitter’ over the holidays

We love our grandchildren, but looking after them can be hard work. Here’s how to draw the line when it comes to helping your child look after their child.

We love our grandchildren, but looking after them can be hard work. Here’s how to draw the line when it comes to helping your child look after their child.

The summer holidays are coming up, so you’ll probably be seeing a lot more of your grandchildren. Which is wonderful, of course. But as they get dropped on you for the 10th ‘last time’ while your son or daughter simply HAS to go for lunch with friends, you might start feeling a tad taken for granted.

Of course if your child is a working parent, or has other important commitments, they will need your help, especially when you consider the cost of childcare. But it’s still important to draw up some ground rules so you don’t end up becoming less ‘grandparent’ and more ‘free babysitter’.

Start the conversation

It’s important to talk to your child when you are both calm and have the time to talk properly. You might feel the need to bring it up when they dump the kids on you before they rush off in a mad dash, but emotions will be running high and you won’t have the time to discuss it properly, so hold your tongue.

Instead, next time you are looking after the grandchildren, ask your child to come round 30 minutes earlier so you’ve got time for a cup of tea and a chat, or to stay for tea and a slice of cake when they come to collect them.

Then bring up the subject gently, when you’re out of earshot of the children. How you broach it is up to you – you know best how to talk to your child. Our advice, though, is let them know how much you love your grandchildren and enjoy spending time with them, but that as you are getting older, you are starting to struggle to keep up with them and feeling too tired to keep doing it quite as much as you are.

It’s also important that they know you have a life of your own. You might still work, which can tire you out too, or have social commitments, which you deserve to enjoy and have time for at this stage of life.

If you don’t say anything, your child will probably assume everything’s fine and, over time, resentment will stir up for you and make the situation 10 times worse than it needs to be. So speak to them about it quickly, and chances are your child will totally understand where you’re coming from.

Come up with a solution that works for you all

Everyone’s situation is different, so you’ll know what works best, but a good place to start is with a schedule.

Agree how many days a week and hours per day you are happy to look after the grandchildren for on a regular basis. Then you can fit in your work and book your other social commitments around this schedule.

If they need someone to look after the children at the last minute, let them know you can’t always be their default choice. Ask them to sound out other trusted grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and neighbours so that they have other people to call on for help should they need it.

Once these ground rules have been set it’s important that you stick to them too. So, as long as there’s another pair of safe hands available, make sure you say ‘no’ from time to time – and don’t feel guilty about it!

Ask to spend time with them too

When you’re chatting with them about this, why not suggest you make the cup of tea together a regular thing? Perhaps they could even stop for dinner when collecting them from time to time?

This reminds your child that you want to spend time with them too and will feel less taken for granted if all you usually get is a quick ‘hi’ and ‘bye’.

This also means your child will start to see the visits as a way to see you and not just as a way to get the kids looked after for a few hours.

Be prepared for when they do come to stay

When you are taking care of the grandchildren, there are ways you can make it easier on yourself.

Dedicate a room or corner to their play area so the mess is contained. Buy a toy box and ensure you fill it with toys they don’t usually have at home, so they will look forward to playing with something different, and it will keep them entertained for longer.

Kids love to get creative, so lay out some newspapers in the kitchen and let them go crazy with paints, glitter and crayons. Don’t worry if any gets on the walls – simply wipe it away with a Flash Magic Eraser, which will remove the mark without removing the paint.

The summer is also a great time to get them out in the great outdoors – whether that’s coming out with you to walk the dog or just mucking about in the garden (read our tips on making your garden grandchild friendly for this). And don’t worry if they bring the outside in – simply run a mop over the floors with a capful of Flash Floor Liquid and they’ll be good as new.

For more quick clean-up tips, check out our article on How to clean up after the grandkids in 15 minutes, and if you’ve got them staying for an overnight stint, check out our Five steps to a successful sleep over with the grandkids.

Most of all, remember you’ve raised your children, so now’s the time to live YOUR life. Of course a joyful part of this is looking after your grandkids, but the real beauty is now you get to hand them back! So enjoy every minute you have with (and without!) them.

Have you set any ground rules when it comes to looking after your grandchildren? Share your tips in the comments section below.

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