Grandparents’ old-school ideas on parenting could be bad for kids

A new study found that grandparents who take care of kids often aren't up to date on guidelines for how to keep them safe and healthy.
Grandma with baby girl

Photo: iStockphoto

You’re grateful when the grandparents babysit—it means a night of freedom for you!—but you also know that when grandma puts the baby to bed there’s a good chance she’ll lie him on his stomach though you’ve mentioned he should sleep on his back time and time again. And you’re pretty sure that, even though it’s almost bedtime, grandpa will cave and let the kids eat sweets or drink juice. A new study shows that when grandparents follow outdated parenting rules and health advice, they might be putting kids at risk.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Northwell Health in New York, gave a questionnaire to 636 grandparents who identified themselves as primary caregivers, but it highlights issues that are faced by parents and grandparents in all kinds of child-care situations. Though grandparents have already been parents and learned all the rules, guidelines have changed a lot in the past 20 or so years as research has told us more about the best ways to keep kids healthy, and many of the things your parents think they know about keeping children safe are likely out of date.

In the study, researchers found that a quarter of the grandparents surveyed didn’t know that it’s best to put a baby to sleep on his back (sleeping on the stomach or side are risk factors for SIDS), and 44 percent thought an ice bath was a good way to bring down a high fever (when, in fact, it could lead to hypothermia). And almost 70 percent didn’t know it’s better for wounds to be covered with a bandage rather than being left uncovered to heal.

Of course, grandparents are doing their best, but they may not have access to all of the same information that you get through parenting groups, websites and paediatricians. Want to ensure your kids’ grandparents (or any caregivers for that matter) are better prepared? Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure your baby’s crib is set up according to guidelines, without bumpers or soft bedding, and keep those items out of the nearby vicinity to prevent anyone who is babysitting from adding them to the crib when they put the baby to bed.
  • Run through feeding schedules together and label which kid gets which food if, say, one child hasn’t started solids yet or one child has food allergies.
  • If they may need to leave the house, ensure the grandparents have access to a vehicle with a properly installed car seat.
  • Talk about what to do in case of accidents and have a first-aid kit handy. And if your kid is prone to illness, show the caregiver where to find any meds, noting the appropriate dose (it often depends on your kid’s weight, which they may not know), and an accurate measuring cup or dropper (using a teaspoon is likely to lead to errors).

Finally, give the grandparents some credit. As you know (because they’ve probably mentioned it more than a few times), they took care of you as a child, and you turned out pretty good.

Read more:
What you need to know about the new safe sleep guidelines for babies
When your parents suck as grandparents
How to deal with grandparents

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