Babysitting Tips for Grandparents

By Jamilah Samian

[NOTE: Article below was published in “Passage”, the Malaysian magazine for seniors and grandparents]


Picture this: Your one-year-old grandchild is afflicted with cough and fever for the umpteenth time. Your daughter has used up her annual leave down to the last day, ferrying the little one to and from the doctor. Now your daughter goes down to the maid’s room to tell her what to prepare for today’s dinner, only to find out she’s gone. Your daughter makes a frantic call to the maid’s agent who says the earliest she could get a replacement is a couple of weeks’ time. Your daughter has a crucial meeting with a client this morning that could make or break her career. What’s her backup? If she’s like many other parents with little kids, chances are she’d pick up the phone and call the person most likely to not mind caring for her baby: YOU.

Grandparents are much sought after to babysit these days for a variety of reasons: maids who pack up and leave without notice leaving working parents with young kids in a lurch; exorbitant costs of hiring maids; parents who are simply exhausted and need a break from their little ones. Time and again, grandparents come to the rescue willingly or otherwise. Interestingly, grandparents in general seem to have a soft spot for their grandkids. I personally have heard of these comments:

“I don’t mind if my son doesn’t come home that often. But I do mind if his kids don’t visit me for more than a week!”

“It’s a strange feeling I felt the minute I saw my newborn granddaughter. I was just overwhelmed with this love. I know it sounds strange, but it’s as if I loved her more than her father — my own son!”

Fondness aside, you and your grandchild’s parents come from different generations and inevitably there’ll be differences in the way you view and do things. Issues like food choices, meal times, bedtime, discipline, programmes to watch on television and handling illnesses might get thorny. You might have a habit of watching Hindustani movies straight after tea while your grandchild’s parents think the only program fit for little kids is Discovery or Animal Planet. You might think kids are made to survive and don’t mind sharing with your grandchild every bit and morsel of food you’re snacking on while her parents might insist she should stay away from carbonated drinks and candy bars. How do you handle these differences?

It’s good to remember that just as there are different routes to get to the same destination, there are different ways of raising healthy and well-adjusted kids. If you do enjoy babysitting your grandkids, you don’t want their parents to stop sending them to your place abruptly without an explanation. Be sensitive to cues; if you sense that your grandchild’s parents don’t seem to be comfortable with your decisions, perhaps you could be more open and seek their views. After all, they are the ones who are ultimately responsible for your grandchild’s well-being. Babysitting is a major commitment. If you think you do not have the stamina to do it, you have the right to turn down a request to care for your grandkids. Alternatively, ask the parents to send the kids to your place with someone in tow, perhaps a maid whom you can supervise. This is a better arrangement especially if you need to babysit for the long term.

For tiny tots especially toddlers, SAFETY is top on the list. Be sure you keep all chemicals, medicines and sharp objects beyond reach. When cooking, don’t leave handles of pots and pans jutting out. Never leave hot stuff on the floor. You don’t know when your grandkid will sneak in when your back is turned away. Decorative yet delicate items are best put away before your grandkids accidentally reach out and smash them – a potential cause for a misunderstanding between you and her parents. Have a first aid kit on standby and emergency phone numbers at the ready, in case you need urgent help.

If you have concerns on food, discipline and such, it’s best to talk it out. HONESTY is the best policy. Your grandkids’ parents need to respect your rights and cannot place unreasonable demands on you. Fetching their kids late or dropping their kids off at a moment’s notice just because your place is just by the corner can rob the joy of your grandparenting experience. As much as you love your grandkids, overstretched grandparents don’t make good babysitters.

Every child deserves a SPARKY grandparent. A grumpy grandparent is just not fun to be with! Don’t stress yourself too much with getting things right because at the end of the day (or at least on most days if you babysit them everyday), you need energy and the right frame of mind to smile at your grandkids. The way you carry yourself, whether you blow your temper easily, whether you make them feel welcome instead of a burden for instance, are some of the most important things that your grandkids will cherish.




About Jamilah Samian

Jamilah has written 540 articles.

Jamilah Samian is an author and speaker.

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