4 Tips for Grandparents Helping to Care for Their Grandchild

June 2, 2022 | 7 min read

For people who have had and raised their own children, becoming a grandparent can be an exciting new chapter in your life. Often, many people look forward to their new, important role supporting their grandchild’s parent(s). The level of support can vary for each family, from practical support like cooking or cleaning up the house, to financial support, to providing emotional support for the parent(s).

Grandparents often play a cherished role in our society. Grandchildren may even see a trip to their grandparents’ house as a fun escape. In some situations, grandparents can play a larger role in looking after their grandchildren by acting as a supportive caregiver. Things like a parent’s work or school schedule, financial situation, or family medical needs can create a situation where a grandparent actively participates in daily family life. Navigating this space (as a caregiver, but not necessarily the main caregiver) can prove a difficult transition for individuals. This is particularly true when grandparents were expecting to enjoy all the fun aspects of grandparenting without all the day-to-day responsibility of parenting. That’s why we’ve created a list of 4 tips that grandparents providing supportive childcare can use to create a healthy, collaborative approach to raising their grandchild.

Find meaningful ways to spend time with your grandchildren with these #Tips for #Grandparents acting as a supportive caregiver:Click To Tweet

1. Talk with the Parent to Clearly Define Your Roles

As a grandparent providing caregiving support, but not acting as the main caregiver, you need to be sure to not step on the toes of your grandchild’s parent(s). Both you and the primary caregiver play an important role in your grandchild’s life, and you want to be certain that you’re creating a collaborative and supportive environment that exemplifies the behaviors that you expect from your grandchild. They say that children are like sponges; they absorb what they see and reflect these actions as well.

Take time to sit down and discuss your role as a supporting caregiver. What kind of help are you comfortable with providing around the house/with raising the children? What areas do the parent(s) feel is their responsibility, as opposed to yours?

Talking through strategies for potential scenarios before they occur can help you to better navigate this space. For example, how will disciplining take place and who is responsible? Is grounding and taking away toys or screen time the agreed upon approach? Or is the better approach to implement a timeout structure? Having the answers in place ahead of time will help parents and grandparents act as a unified front and provide consistent expectations for the children in the home.

Get connected with the resources you need to care for your grandchildren.

2. Find Activities that You and Your Grandchild Can Both Enjoy

For grandparents caring for their grandchild, many people assume it will be difficult to find shared interests. The generational gap might pose some challenges when it comes to playing video games or understanding the trends and slang they use. Still, with just a bit of effort, you can easily create a list of potential activities.

Below we’ve highlighted a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Go for a walk outside spending time with your grandchild exploring nature can be a great way to spend time together. You can make this time a more interactive activity by having them collect flowers, rocks, or leaves. Or, you can create a “scavenger hunt” by searching for specific things on your walk.
  • Read together — it is important to instill a love of reading in children at a young age. Not only does it help their cognitive and language development, but it increases the likelihood that they will carry a love of reading with them into adulthood. Let your grandchildren pick out a few books they are interested in, and spend some time each day reading with them.
  • Create art together — get your hands dirty by diving into the craft drawer! Pull out the markers, paints, or crayons and let your grandchildren’s imagination run wild. Give them the space to create their own masterpieces, and then display these works of art on the fridge or around the house. This little bit of encouragement can help them become more confident in their interests and skills.
  • Try out new recipes — do you make the world’s best chocolate chip cookie? Is there a secret family recipe that you can pass down to your grandchildren? While they might not be old enough to remember the steps themselves, they surely will remember the time you spend baking and creating delicious treats to share with your loved ones!
  • Find board games to play or movies to watch — let your grandchildren choose what games they want to play or what movie they want to watch. These lower-energy activities help you spend time with one another without doing much physical activity.
  • Tell each other stories — you can share stories with your grandchildren or give them the space to use their imagination to create a story of their own. The key part is to be an engaged and active audience.

This list is just the start of the countless fun activities you can do with your grandchildren. Talk with one another to create a list of fun things you’d like to do together, or talk with their parents or primary caregiver to see what kinds of activities they enjoy as well.

Looking for more information? Check out our top 7 tips for grandparents raising their grandchildren.

3. Be Sure to Stick to a Structure for Children to Help Development

One of the most important things you can do to help progress your grandchild's development is to create a clearly defined structure for their days. Even though you may alternate responsibility for the children throughout the day, it is best to have a consistent schedule regardless of whether the parent or grandparent is in charge. The main intent in creating a structure for your grandchild’s day is to establish a regular routine. This means that it’s best to keep them to a regular wake-up time, meal schedule, and activity time each day.

Children benefit from following routines and rules for a handful of reasons:

  • They can learn to understand limits and boundaries
  • They can begin practicing self-discipline
  • They experience frustration and delayed gratification and learn to navigate complex feelings
  • They learn how to appropriately interact with the world around them

Another key reason to implement a routine is that it teaches your grandchild how to become independent. After following the same structure for a while, they’ll begin to understand that their morning starts with getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing their teeth, and getting ready for school. While you might need to monitor these steps for a while, you’ll find that your grandchild starts to naturally accomplish these steps on their own. Having this level of independence can help to boost your grandchild’s self-esteem and instill confidence in their ability to take care of themselves.

Establishing a daily routine helps children gain #Independence. Discover more tips for #Grandparents caring for their grandchildren:Click To Tweet

4. Know that Simply Being Present is Enough

A common thing we hear from parents, caregivers, and grandparents is that they feel they aren’t doing enough to support their children (or grandchildren) or feel they need to do something elaborate or expensive to show they care. But, the reality is that none of the flashy, high-profile activities are necessary to create a deep and meaningful relationship.

Simply taking the time to spend time with your grandchildren and create fun memories is all it takes to demonstrate how much you love them. And, as a bit of added reassurance, studies show that children are more likely to remember the smaller moments that spark joy (like splashing around in puddles, playing at the park, or cuddling up to watch movies). These are the memories that will stick with them for years to come.

It’s easy to feel like you should be doing more, but we’re here to remind you that what you are doing is already enough. And, if you do feel like you need some additional support or resources, NCHS is here to connect you to the outlets that can help. Through classes like Raising Your Grandchildren, we can arm you with the knowledge and tools you need to create an action plan that leads to a brighter and healthier future for you and your loved ones.

As a grandparent, you play an important role in your grandchild’s life. Whether you’re acting as the primary caregiver, or simply providing support to their parent(s), NCHS has plenty of community connections and resources to help you succeed in your role. To find out more about our services aimed toward grandparents providing childcare, reach out to our team today.