When you tell people your first grandchild is on the way, the first question they ask is usually, “When is it due?” The second question is invariably “What do you want to be called?” And for many grandparents, grandmothers especially, that is a hard question to answer!
Lacking any strong cultural ties, I didn’t have the easy solution of the friends who were Italian or Chinese and had traditional names to go to. Though my husband is half-Greek, YiaYia and Papou are still living, so those names are taken. I began to hope that my son and his wife would have an opinion that would make it unnecessary for me to choose. They didn’t, so I turned to the internet, sifting through lists in search of a name that sounded like something I could live with for the next 30-40 years.
It’s important to know how to keep your grandbaby safe from foods that can cause harm.
Food. It’s the cause of many a disagreement between parents and grandparents. And it’s not just about Grandma sneaking a cookie to Junior before dinner! Dietary choices, feeding methods, food allergies and sensitivities, mealtime philosophies—there are so many issues that grandparents need to recognize.
Breast vs. bottle, baby-led weaning vs. starting with purees or vegan vs. omnivore: Today’s parents usually have strong feelings about how their baby is fed. Grandparents don’t always agree with their methods, but no matter what you think is right, it’s vital that you support your adult child’s decisions.
Unless your grandchild is showing signs of malnutrition, your role as a grandparent doesn’t extend to making decisions about how or when a child is fed. Make sure you know and respect the parents’ wishes about how their child is nourished. If you question what they are doing, learn about their chosen method so you can understand their reasoning.
Grandparents also need to be aware that food can be a safety issue. It’s important to know how to keep your grandbaby safe from foods that can cause harm. We’ve put together some food and feeding safety tips for you as a starting point, but you should always check in with parents to find out what's important to them.
The following food can cause serious illness in babies and should be avoided for the first year of a child’s life:
Honey: can cause botulism, a serious form of food poisoning. Avoid all foods containing honey, including yogurt, cereals and crackers, such as honey graham crackers.
Unpasteurized drinks or foods such as juices, milks (raw milk), yogurt, or cheeses may put babies at risk for E. coli, which can cause severe and life-threatening diarrhea.
Cow’s milk may put a baby at risk for intestinal bleeding. An infant’s kidneys cannot handle the proteins and minerals in fortified milk.
Juice is not recommended for babies under 12 months, as its high sugar content is of little nutritional value.
To help reduce allergies, solid food shouldn’t be introduced until six months of age. While we were usually instructed to introduce foods in a certain order, that’s no longer seen as important for most children.
Once a baby begins eating solid foods, it’s vital to be aware of the foods that are common choking hazards. This list includes:
These, and any other food that could block their airway, could cause choking. It’s a good idea to take a course on what to do if a child is choking, like the one offered here.
The way you feed your grandbaby is as important as what you feed him or her. It’s important to make sure food is cooked and prepared for your grandchild’s developmental stage. They should be sitting upright while eating, not crawling, reclining, or walking. Supervise your grandchildren closely while they are eating, and avoid giving them food in the car or stroller where you can’t see them at all times.
Being a prepared grandparent is the best gift you can give your grandchildren. While no amount of preparation can prevent all emergencies, knowing what the risks are is an important first step.
Want to join the club of truly prepared grandparents? New Grandparent Essentials contains more ways to prepare, including a guide to talking with parents about how you can support their feeding choices.
As an Amazon affiliate, I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. Thank you for helping to keep this site ad-free.
“All along, I had been grandparenting solely by instinct and habit when what I really needed to do was to grandparent consciously, deliberately, and by design.” Jerry Witkovsky, The Grandest Love
Author Jerry Witkovsky was not alone in approaching his role as grandparent from instinct and habit. Most grandparents do the same, assuming that love and enthusiasm are enough. In The Grandest Love: Inspiring the Grandparent-Grandchild Connection, Witkovsky makes the case for another way of grandparenting: consciously, deliberately and by design. This more intentional approach is the key to creating relationships that will sustain and enrich the lives of the entire family.
Witkovsky was a social-work professional long before he became a grandparent. His professional experience convinced him that the grandparent-grandchild relationship has the power to strengthen families and communities. In The Grandest Love, he shares the results of over 25 years of studying grandparents and the influence they can have on their families.
But this book is not a research book. It takes that research, pairs it with his own experience as a grandfather of six, and presents the reader with an action plan for building a foundation of connection, communication, and mutual support. The book includes questionnaires, quizzes and templates for creating your own plan for grandparenting. These are paired with sample scenarios and Witkovsky’s sound advice. Sprinkled throughout are heartwarming stories from grandchildren about the impact their grandparents had on their lives.
The Grandest Love includes two valuable chapters for families that may be experiencing conflict and poor communication. Chapter III, Gateway to the Grandest Love: Rebuilding Trust, Achieving Forgiveness, shares suggestions for healing the rift that may already be in place in your relationship with your adult children. Chapter IV, TLC (“Tender Loving Communication”): The Grandest Way to Avoid and Resolve Conflict, presents a model of communication that will avoid future rifts and misunderstandings.
Jerry Witkovsky’s book is a great resource for all grandparents who want to make a difference in the lives of their adult children and grandchildren. But if you are struggling with the relationship with your adult children, it’s a must read. Get your copy today.
Want another powerful tool for creating relationships that will sustain and enrich the lives of your family? Check out New Grandparent Essentials, our exclusive guide for grandparents.
Today's post was written by Emily Morgan, host of the wonderful The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting podcast.
Bone tired. It’s the way you felt once your first baby was born, and then thereafter for so many years. For most of us, that period of life was a long, blurry tunnel with no light at the end. You often stole five-minute naps as the children played. You fell asleep while trying to catch one more episode of television before you had to wake up and start the process of caring for, cleaning up after, and coddling the children you so dearly love. You thought you’d never be this tired again.
Until you had grandchildren.
Now you are much older and—incredibly--busier than you thought you could ever be. So how do you handle the kind of exhaustion that accompanies caring for those little lives you longed for--those sweet grandchildren? Well, much depends on how many grandchildren you have, if they live close to you, and how much help your own children need from you.
We often give our own adult children the kind of advice we’re unwilling to take ourselves. We tell them they need to set aside time for themselves. They need to rest when they can, and they need to take on no more than they can handle. Are you, as a grandparent, willing to do the same?
Our job as grandparents is to support, not fully sustain. Perhaps we need to recognize (and our adult children do, too) that we are merely one part of a support system that extends beyond us. We may need to figure out a way to encourage our children to delegate.
When we are asked for help, we may be tempted to say yes on each occasion. But instead, maybe we should ask ourselves if there may be others who might come alongside our adult children – their friends, babysitters, and community – in order to keep ourselves from overcommitting. As young parents, my husband and I never lived near family, and so we had to get resourceful. I found mother’s-day-out programs. I swapped babysitting with friends. I found a place to exercise that also had a drop off program for my children, and I hired a mother’s helper when I just needed to lie down.
As grandparents, maybe we can encourage our adult children to find alternatives to the care we provide in order for us not to suffer the kind of grandparent burnout I see so many times. I hear from grandparents who are frustrated, and exhausted. Honestly, they tell me they just don’t have it in themselves to do parenting all over again. I understand. And the more grandchildren you have, the harder it gets.
Not only do you not have the bandwidth to care for all of them, but also, the more grandchildren you have, the harder it is to juggle the responsibilities for all of them and mete out a fair amount of time to each.
The hardest part of all of this is communicating our own needs to our adult children. That is the stretch it takes for us all. My advice? The same thing I’d say to our adult children about their jobs or relationships: don’t wait until you are resentful and bitter about how things have been going. Address problems up front as soon as you feel you are being taken advantage of or simply too tired to cope. Same goes for us. Remember that our value as a grandparent extends way beyond what we can do for your family. Our worth is also in what you can be for them – a loving, caring, kind person who is all of those things because we are rested and joyful instead of tired and resentful.
© 2022 Emily Morgan
Emily Morgan hosts The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting podcast and is in her third year of creating over 80 episodes consisting of stories, interviews and essays about grandparenting. Her The Stretch It Takes essays have become a favorite for her listeners, exploring how to stay flexible in relationships with adult children and grandchildren alike. She and her husband Mike enjoy their 10 grandchildren, who reside with their respective parents in IN, CO, and VA, and who range in age from six months to 10 years old.
Being the best grandparent sometimes means admitting the old ways aren't the best ways.
What is the best way to introduce solid food to a baby?
Surprisingly, each answer to that question was the right one at one point in time. (Yes, some experts in the 1940s recommended liver soup for babies starting at three months!)
Can you imagine the conversations when those parents became grandparents in the 1960s and '70s? They probably weren’t too different than the ones happening today as grandparents watch their 7-month-old grandchild gnawing on a steak bone or a slice of melon! (Read more about the baby-led weaning method that many of today’s parents are following in this post.)
Child rearing recommendations change regularly, as research and science reveal new information about what is best for babies. In the 1920’s, parents were warned that affection could psychologically damage their babies. One kiss a day, on the forehead, was more than enough, said some experts. Mothers in the 1950s were told that babyproofing was the lazy way out: they should teach their children to stay away from dangers or breakables by yelling at them if they tried to touch something they shouldn’t. These, of course, are the more extreme examples, but they underline the point that advice to new parents is constantly changing.
Poison Prevention Week is March 20-26, the perfect time to identify poisoning hazards that might injure your grandchildren.
Before she could crawl, Amelia was the most content baby ever. She happily sat and watched the world go on around her, rarely fussing or making demands. Everyone who met her said the same thing: “She’s such a good baby!” And she was! Her parents quickly got used to the fact that she was no trouble at all.
And then she got mobile, and the trouble started. She got into everything, and the more dangerous it was, the quicker she found it. After months of having a perfectly behaved baby, her parents weren’t ready for one who tried to defy death on a regular basis. Even their best attempts at baby-proofing couldn’t keep her from finding hazards. They had the number for poison control on speed dial, and used it regularly. Luckily, despite her best attempts, Amelia (and her parents!) lived through all her misadventures.
The moral of this story is that babies and children, no matter how well-behaved they are, can get into trouble when we least expect it. As grandparents, we are often even less prepared for mischief: our homes are full of hazards. With Poison Prevention Week coming up March 20-26, I want to challenge you to check your house and secure any poisoning hazards now, before the next time your grandchildren are in your home.
There are three steps to protecting your grandchildren from accidental poisoning in your home:
1. Know what’s dangerous. Below, we’ve provided a list of some of the most common causes of poisoning. It’s not exhaustive, so go through your home and look for other items that may be harmful.
2. Secure all potentially hazardous substances. Remember, no container is 100% childproof. Keep all dangerous substances in their original containers and out of reach of children. Even better, keep them out of sight to reduce any temptation. Consider child safety latches on cupboards that contain hazardous items, even if they are above a child’s reach.
3. Program the number for Poison Help into your phone: 1-800-222-1222. Do it right now! (I just did it myself!)
Take a few minutes and find a safer place for the following common causes of accidental poisoning in children:
Medications. If you have your daily medications in a handy pill organizer (as many grandparents do), you need to make sure it is consistently put away where your grandchildren can’t see or reach it. Medications are the leading cause of child poisoning, and up to 20 percent of pediatric poisonings involve a grandparent’s medication. Make sure all medications, both prescription and over the counter, are out of sight and out of reach. This includes homeopathic and herbal remedies.
Household cleaners. Cleaners should be stored on a high shelf, out of reach and out of sight.
Dishwasher tabs. These shiny little nuggets look like candy to children.
Laundry pods. Like dishwasher tabs, these colorful pods appeal to curious children.
Tobacco and e-cigarette products.
Alcohol. This includes rubbing alcohol, spirits and hand sanitizer.
Pesticides and insect repellents. Make sure you check the yard and garage as well.
Button batteries. These are found in hearing aids, key fobs, books with music or sounds, etc.
Oils and lubricants. In addition to engine oil and others in the garage, think about fragrance oils, essential oils, etc.
Personal care products. Secure contact lens disinfectants, mouthwash, and other items that contain toxic ingredients.
Securing your home is just one part of the equation for grandparents.
You also need to be vigilant is when you visit your grandchild. Do you have medication in your purse? Make sure it’s not within reach, even if you are just stopping by. If you are staying overnight, don’t leave medications or other harmful substances in your suitcase where they can be found.
Smart grandparents make sure that they are up-to-date on health and safety issues. Make sure you’ve read our other posts on What Grandparents Need to Know, and get New Grandparent Essentials for even more information!
Was this post helpful? Share it with a friend!
Why clear boundaries are important to families
How would you feel if you received this message shortly before becoming a grandparent?
“Hi everyone! Just wanted to let you know a couple of things we’ve decided about the first couple weeks after we bring home the baby. We want to have some time alone to bond with him, so we’ll let you know when we are ready for visitors. When that time comes, we ask that you be tested for Covid before visiting, and wash your hands before holding the baby. Also, no kissing him! Thanks for understanding.”
A text message like this lit up the message boards at Gransnet, and there were two distinct camps in the responses. A very vocal group was appalled that the mom-to-be had made such strict rules and conveyed them by text message to a large group of family and friends, instead of having a conversation with the grandparents-to-be. Another segment of the responders applauded her for being clear and direct with what she felt were important boundaries, and advised the grandmother to abide by the rules.
Clear boundaries in families can help you avoid ending up featured in Dear Abby. The advice columns are full of letters from parents seeking help about grandparents crossing boundaries, and letters from grandparents who don’t know what they’ve done to upset their adult children. The young mother whose text message was shared on Gransnet was doing what all parents should: stating clearly what her boundaries were.
Was a text message the best way to do that? For her, it clearly was. Maybe she didn’t want the pushback she knew she’d get in a conversation. Maybe she felt it was most diplomatic to make it clear everyone was getting the same rules and treatment. Maybe texting is just her preferred method of communication. For the grandparents, this is one of many, many instances where their way of handling a situation will be different than the way their adult children handle it. Different, not better or worse. This is the first rule of healthy grandparent boundaries: not judging what those boundaries are or how they are communicated.
New parents have so many things to figure out! Some of them don’t talk to grandparents about boundaries because they are still learning to see themselves as competent adults. Others just don’t know how to clearly communicate their boundaries. Often, it’s because they are afraid of upsetting their own parents or in-laws. They don’t express that they wish grandparents wouldn’t drop by so often/feed their kids junk food/buy so many toys because they know that grandparents are important. They don’t want to say something that might be misunderstood as criticism. How nice it would be if grandparents signaled their willingness to respect parent boundaries by initiating the conversation and asking what those boundaries are!
If there are no clear boundaries in your family, it’s likely that your grandchild’s parents wish there were. Why not be the one to start the conversation? New Grandparent Essentials includes a guided dialog to have with new parents about many of the hot spots of child rearing. Not a new grandparent? It’s never too late to improve your family’s communication. Clear boundaries are important to the health of families, and communication is the only way to know what they are before you bounce up against one.
If real estate comes down to location, location, location, having healthy family boundaries comes down to communication, communication, communication. Just keep in mind that some boundaries can be blurry as parents get used to their new role, and all boundaries can move with time. Making yourself open to communicating on the parents’ terms can help navigate those changes and work through any misunderstanding caused by unclear or changing boundaries. And that, my dear grandparents, will make your time with your grandchildren much more rewarding.
Want help creating clear boundaries with your family? See how New Grandparent Essentials can help you.
February 6-12 is Burn Awareness Week. It’s a great time to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep our grandchild safe from accidental burns. #NBAW
The summer my son turned one, we lived in an older apartment building in Northern Virginia. Reflecting our limited budget, it was pretty run down, and between the roaches and the broken air conditioner, it wasn’t the ideal place to raise a baby. We managed pretty well despite the challenges, until the day he showed us how cheap our appliances were.
He was just starting to pull himself up on things, and one afternoon he tried to pull himself up on the oven while I was making dinner. The side of the oven door, which I’d never thought to touch, was searingly hot, and his little hand was badly burned. I will never forget the way he cried—the shrieks of pure pain that came from his little body. I felt like the worst mother in the world when we took him to the emergency room, but he bounced back quickly and healed without incident. Still, I was scarred for life! I am paranoid about children being near burn hazards.
Children have no concept of what “hot” means—unless they learn it the hard way, as my son did. That’s why it’s so important for caregivers to be extra vigilant about potential burn hazards. Grandparents, this means making sure your home is safe whenever your grandchildren are there, even if they are being closely watched by adults. I can tell you from experience, a child can burn themselves even with their mother standing two feet away.
Tips for keeping your grandchildren safe from accidental burns in the kitchen
Keep hot food and liquids away from children.
Tips for keeping your grandchildren safe from accidental burns in the bathroom
Tips for keeping your grandchildren safe from accidental burns elsewhere in the house
Tips for keeping your grandchildren safe from accidental burns outside the house:
Following these tips should ensure your grandchild will never experience what my son did. However, if the worst happens, make sure you know what to do for a burn. Remove any wet clothing, and run cool water on the burned area for 20 minutes. Don’t use ice, butter, creams or lotions. If the burn is severe, seek medical advice after initial first aid is given.
Find more valuable safety tips in the Baby Care and Safety section of New Grandparent Essentials, the best way for grandparents to be prepared for life's greatest adventure!