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!
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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!
Grandparents should know baby walker pros and cons before using one.
Raise your hand if you think baby walkers are safe as long as they aren’t used around stairs.
Unfortunately, stairs are not the only hazard to a child in a tray walker. Although stairs are involved in 75% of injuries involving walkers, there are other hazards as well. The second most common cause of injury is babies falling out of the walker itself. And because walkers give a baby mobility and reach they would not have otherwise, there are numerous injuries from burns and poisons. Between 1990 and 2014, over 230,000 children under the age of 15 months went to the ER for baby walker-related injuries.
There is a reason that baby walkers are banned in Canada, and safety is only one issue. Another is that walkers can delay motor and mental development.
From the New York Times review of a study by Dr. A. Carol Siegel:
On average, infants who did not use walkers sat at 5 months, crawled at 8 months and began to walk in their 10th month, while babies who used walkers that blocked their views of their feet first sat near the end of their 6th month, crawled at 9 months and walked at almost 12 months. Babies whose walkers permitted them to see their feet sat and crawled at an age midway between the other two groups.
It's important to note that this study was far from definitive, and subsequent small studies have had mixed results. But when it comes to our grandchildren, we certainly want to avoid all the risks we can!
A third issue is the effect of walkers on a baby’s developing body. The seats in walkers (and jumpers and exersaucers) put the baby’s hips in a position that can lead to hip dysplasia or dislocation when they are older. If their feet don’t rest fully on the floor, they can develop tightness in their heel cords, which can lead to toe-walking.
According to The Children’s Rehabilitation Institute TeletonUSA:
Research shows using these kinds of toys does not help your child achieve independent skills sooner, because they are able to “walk”, “sit”, “jump” in a seated, supported, and poorly aligned position. This means they are not able to fully practice the muscle control and balance reactions necessary for moving outside of the device.
CRIT goes on to point out that the ill-effects of these toys are unlikely if a child is in an exersaucer for a short period each day. It’s when a walker is used for hours to keep the baby occupied while the caregivers are busy that both safety and development become an issue.
What should you, as a grandparent, do with this information?
Like all information on this website, our purpose is to educate you so you can better understand the choices your adult children are making as parents. If they are using a baby walker and you are worried about it, send them this blog post and ask if they have seen studies like these. Don’t, however, try to dictate what they do with the information.
On the other hand, if you are using a baby walker when your grandchild is at your house, you might want to find a new way to entertain the baby. Hopefully, now that you’ve seen the pros and cons of using a baby walker, you can make an informed decision.
What new grandparents need to know to be a valued member of the club!
Congratulations and Welcome to the Grandparents’ Club! You have been selected for membership by someone close to you. While this is most likely one of your adult children, there are other paths to membership. Read on to discover what new grandparents need to know about this exciting club.
Grandparents’ Club Benefits
Grandparents’ Club Privileges
Grandparents' Club Rules
Membership in the Grandparents’ Club is irrevocable; however, you may have any and all privileges stripped at any time by the Chapter Leader. It is key, therefore, to familiarize yourself with these rules and abide by them at all times.
Grandparents’ Club Structure
While the Grandparents’ Club is a global group, it is made up of individual chapters comprised of:
Grandparents’ Club New Member Orientation
New members will be tempted to focus on shopping and picture sharing during the first months of membership. For long-term success, it’s best to augment those activities with some education about their role in this new club. There are several helpful books, but the quickest way to learn what new grandparents need to know is by taking advantage of New Grandparent Essentials, which we developed especially for this purpose. It will ensure you have all the information, strategies, and support you need to be a valued member of your chapter of the New Grandparents’ Club. Find out more about it here.
(Skipping New Member Orientation can lead to hurt feelings, unexpressed tension, misunderstandings, chapter drama, and in extreme cases, estrangement. Should you wish to avoid these outcomes, it is recommended that you take advantage of the resources offered on this website and in New Grandparent Essentials.)
Welcome again to the greatest club in the world!
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Review of Being a Distance Grandparent: A Book for ALL Generations by Helen Ellis M.A.
Long-distance grandparents around the world rejoiced when Helen Ellis released her book in April, 2021. While living far away from grandchildren is never easy, the global pandemic made even rare visits impossible for many families. Ellis’ book, with its many stories and academic tone, gives comfort to those grandparents who are struggling with their long-distance role. Being a Distance Grandparent covers both the emotional experience and the practicalities of long-distance grandparenting: How hard it is to worry from afar. Where to stay when you visit. The uncertainties, the jealousies, and the difficulties of different time zones.
Ellis started the project as her master’s thesis, and it shows in the way her information is presented. Each topic that impacts distance families is presented, discussed and illustrated with real-world stories from distance families themselves. It’s a book about being a distance grandparent, rather than a book of advice for long-distance grandparents. Ellis makes it clear that she has not set out to tell you how to be a good distance grandparent, as only you and your family can know how that looks. However, she does sprinkle advice amongst her stories and experiences, and you will find many helpful ideas throughout the book.
Being a Distance Grandparent will be especially relatable for internationally separated families. Though it has plenty for all distance grandparents, many of the topics weren’t issues faced by my own family, separated only by a few US states and two time zones. For those families who are dealing with longer distances and international borders, Ellis’ book will help you realize that you aren’t alone. What’s more, you’ll see ways to overcome the struggles you are experiencing as you try to forge and maintain a relationship with your grandchildren.
No matter what the distance separating your family, reading Being a Distance Grandparent will give you a deeper understanding of how to minimize its impact. Order a copy today.
How too many gifts from grandparents are a problem for everyone
I was recently interviewed for an article for PureWow called “How to Tell Grandparents to (Please) Stop Buying Your Kids So Much Damn Stuff”. It’s always helpful to read articles like this aimed at parents, because it gives such insight to their perspective on hot topics. “Too much stuff from grandparents” is at the top of the list of topics that parents struggle with, especially at this time of year. Too many grandparents don’t pay attention to the boundaries parents try to set: 75% of the parents we surveyed wanted grandparents to respect their wishes about gifts.
One reason for what’s been called “a crisis of overabundance” is that there is so much available for such low prices. A grandparent can spend $50 and get several toys or multiple outfits. It’s tempting to buy more when what you wanted to buy is only $12.99, because your grandchild is worth so much more!
When grandparents give too many gifts, it is nearly always to show their love for their grandchildren. Gifts show how much we value our grandchildren, and how much we want to delight them. It’s hard to consider that those motivations can result in problems. However, there are real and valid reasons for parents to try to limit gifts from grandparents. These aren’t just small problems for the parents. They can be big ones, and they can also affect the children and grandparents themselves.
How overindulgent grandparents cause trouble for parents
So Much Damn Stuff
Parents have many reasons they don’t want too many gifts from grandparents. The one most often cited, and most often waved away by grandparents, is the sheer volume of stuff. Many parents don’t have the physical space to accommodate the toys indulgent grandparents buy. Even if they do, parents are the ones responsible for storing and picking up all those toys. Yes, the kids should be putting them away—but the reality is that even if they are, the parents are responsible for getting them to do it.
Another thing to consider here is that you, as a grandparent, are only one of the people giving gifts to your grandchild. Let’s do a little math here: Say your grandson has four other grandparents and four aunts and uncles. Each of these people get him one gift for his second birthday. That’s already nine gifts. Plus something from mom and dad—we are up to ten. But if all those grandparents buy him three things, and two of the aunts get him an extra little something—that’s 22 presents. For a 2-year-old, who would be just as happy with a box.
Stealing the limelight
While it’s natural to want to be the one to grant your granddaughter’s most heartfelt desire, consider that her parents might want to be the ones to get credit for giving her the skateboard she wants more than anything in the world. It’s only fair to give them first chance at that, which is why it’s vital to discuss your gift giving strategy ahead of holidays and birthdays.
There’s another reason it’s important to check with parents before buying something. As children get older, parents can use a child’s desire for a new Lego set or the latest book by their favorite author as incentive for reaching a goal. One mother told me how hard her son was working towards making sure he remembered to turn in his homework every day. They’d agreed that if he could do it for a full month, he’d get the newest Pokemon game. But Grandma, knowing how much he has been anticipating the game release, arrived at the house with the game long before the month was up. Mom was left without the valuable incentive she’d counted on, and the homework habit slipped right back to where it had been.
Undermining their values
Many parents want to raise their children with values of minimalism or environmental awareness. It can be a struggle teach children to value people and experiences over belongings if they come to equate their grandparents with abundant gifts. This is especially difficult for parents who choose not to have certain types of products in their home, like battery-operated toys or clothing made in sweatshops. As grandparents, it’s important for us to respect that, and to value our adult children’s decisions as parents.
How overindulgent grandparents cause trouble for grandkids
Too many toys=less imaginative play
Are you buying toys because you think your grandchild will valuable playtime with them? You might want to think again: Research is pretty convincing that having fewer toys leads to better quality play. With fewer toys to choose from, children interact with the toys in more creative ways and play with them for longer. This sustained play leads to all sorts of positive outcomes, from motor skill development to better problem solving. In other words, more toys doesn’t equal better play.
Do too many gifts spoil a child?
There’s a scene in the first Harry Potter book where the dreadful Dudley Dursley is counting the gifts he received on his birthday. "Thirty-six. That's two less than last year!" While this is a fictional exaggeration, many grandparents are creating similar expectations in their grandchildren. If you rush to make sure they have everything they could possibly desire, they will grow up with the assumption that they deserve everything they want. Eventually, life will teach them otherwise, and it will be a hard lesson. It’s much kinder to keep them from having to learn that lesson by not over-indulging them from the start.
Creating negative habits
Another negative effect of too much stuff is the impact it can have on your grandchild’s consumer habits. When a child becomes accustomed to having an abundance of things, they will consider that the norm. When they are first supporting themselves, they may feel deprived if that abundance isn’t possible, or they may develop negative spending habits to fill that sense of need. Again, you can set them up for future success by limiting what you buy them now.
How overindulgent grandparents cause trouble for themselves
Focus on the relationship, or the gifts?
When grandparents give too many gifts, it changes the dynamic in the grandparent-grandchild relationship. I only see my grandchildren 3-4 times a year, but I decided very early on that I wasn’t going bring a little something to my grandchildren with every visit. I realized that before long, I would be greeted with “What did you bring me?” instead of ”DeeDee! I missed you!” I wanted them to be happy to see me and Pops for ourselves, and I didn’t want to set up a habit that would change that. This also means that I focus on them, rather than their reaction to whatever I might have brought.
Setting up conflict with your adult children
Parents are asking the internet how to limit gifts from grandparents because the grandparents aren’t listening—or because they are afraid of bringing up the subject for fear grandparents will take offense. If your adult children haven’t talked to you about gift giving, don’t assume there isn’t a problem. Bring up the subject yourself! Download our free resource, “A Grandparent’s Guide to Happy Holidays” for tips on how to have that conversation.
Suzanne was so thrilled with the birth of her first grandchild that she went overboard with gifts. When the second one was born, she did the same. By the time the fifth grandchild arrived, she had retired and had a much more limited income. But because she had set up a pattern of buying expensive gifts for her grandchildren, she continued to do so for fear that they or their parents would be upset with anything less. This sometimes meant scrimping on things she needed for herself. How much easier it would have been if she hadn’t gone overboard to begin with, or if she had felt able to have an honest conversation with her children!
Help Change the Narrative
“My son and his wife have told me I’m only allowed to buy one gift per child. This is so unfair! Buying things for my grandkids is one of my favorite hobbies and I don’t think they should tell me I can’t!”
I cringed when I read this on a grandparenting forum, but I was even more disheartened to see so many people agreeing with the poster that she should ignore her son’s request and give the grandkids as much stuff as she wanted to buy. If buying stuff for your grandkids is one of your favorite hobbies, consider finding a new hobby—one that will create opportunities for true connection. The bonds you build by spending time together are far more lasting—and far cheaper!
Has this made you reconsider your own gift-giving? Please let us know in the comments!
An explanation of baby-led weaning for grandparents
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I was a little alarmed one day during our FaceTime call to see my 8-month-old granddaughter gnawing on a large piece of pear. She only had four teeth, and those weren’t even good for chewing! Why wasn’t she being fed easy-to-swallow applesauce or something like that? Knowing that my son and daughter-in-law wouldn’t purposely endanger their child, I asked them to educate me.
“Have you heard of baby-led weaning?” my daughter-in-law asked. When I admitted I hadn’t, she shared a little information. After reading more about it, I realized she wasn’t the only parent faced with how to explain baby led weaning to grandparents.
One of the challenges of being a grandparent is accepting that the way we did things as parents might not have been the best way possible. Such is the case with baby-led weaning vs purees. It was the accepted standard to feed our babies smoothly pureed foods, usually starting with rice cereal. Research now shows there is a better way, and baby-led weaning is gaining in popularity.
Spoon-feeding purees to babies is something that became the norm in the late 1940’s, when the advice was to start solids at four months. Now we know that a baby’s digestive system isn’t ready for solid food until 6 months or later, and that earlier introduction to solid foods increases the likelihood of allergies.
So, what’s baby-led weaning?
First off, “Baby-led weaning” is a somewhat misleading name, because weaning is only part of the equation. Personally, I prefer the alternate term “baby-led feeding”, because that’s the main focus of the concept. The idea is that by providing a wide variety of appropriate finger foods, parents allow babies to choose what and how much to eat. This exposes them to a wide variety of tastes and textures, and allows them to form a healthy relationship to food. One study reported that “Baby-led weaning promotes healthy food preferences in early childhood, which may protect against obesity.”
Where does the weaning come in?
By offering solids to babies in addition to their regular intake of breast milk or formula, babies are in charge of how much of each they consume. A baby will naturally start relying more on solid foods and less on milk when they are ready, usually close to their first birthday.
Can baby-led weaning cause choking?
Choking can happen with any food at any age. It’s vital to understand and follow the guidance on when a baby is ready for solids and which foods to begin with. (See below for some resources on those points.) Following those guidelines will minimize the chance of choking, but will not eliminate it. Close supervision during meals is necessary, and parents and caregivers should be educated about how to help a choking child. (Start with this blog post to know why!)
But it’s also important to understand the difference between choking, when food blocks the airway completely, and gagging, which is a normal reflex to prevent choking. According to experts, the gag reflex is very close to the front of the mouth in a young baby, meaning they will gag long before the food is far enough back to block their throat. As the baby gets older, the reflex moves farther back in the mouth. Baby-led weaning helps them learn to chew and swallow while the reflex is still in a place in their mouth that helps prevent choking.
What if my grandchild’s parents aren’t familiar with baby-led weaning?
This blog post, like all information on our website, is meant to give grandparents insight into what parents want them to know. It’s not meant to provide information that grandparents should then use to try to educate parents. If your adult children are using a different feeding method, that’s fine. There’s no need to try to convince them that baby-led weaning is better. Depending on your relationship with them, it may be fine to ask if they’ve heard of it. Only if they show curiosity should you share what you’ve learned. It may be better to just share a link to a website and let them take it from there.
Are there other new trends that have left you confused? Let me know in the comments!
The definitive book on baby-led weaning by Gill Rapley, Baby-Led Weaning
A thorough explanation of baby-led weaning and what it entails.
More on baby-led weaning from the Cleveland Clinic, in case you want a more official site.
An interesting history of baby food.