Should you visit the hospital when your new grandbaby is born? If so, what do you need to know? Our list of the do’s and don’ts of hospital visits will help grandparents who want to go to the hospital when their new grandchild is born. You’ll want to read our tips before you plan a visit to your new grandchild and his or her parents.
You’ve been waiting for this moment for months (maybe even years!). Your first grandchild is due any day now and you cannot wait to meet her. But your excitement is dimmed when your daughter or son explains that they not only don’t want anyone else in the delivery room, they want some time to themselves before anyone else meets the baby.
If you’ve had visions of pacing the hallways while waiting for the baby to arrive, or planned to hold your daughter’s hand as she brings your grandchild into the world, this can feel like a major disappointment. But knowing that this is just the first of many times you will have to respect the parents’ wishes, you quickly shift gears and make plans to visit them in the hospital as soon as you can.
Not so fast! These days, it’s not a question of just popping into the hospital once you’ve gotten the news the baby is here. There are definite do’s and don’ts for grandparents and other visitors, and it’s important to follow them.
Here are some tips to help you navigate hospital etiquette and make the most of your first meeting with your new grandchild.
Knowing what the risks to our grandchild’s safety are, and how to protect them, is the first step to preventing common childhood accidents and injuries. Read about what grandparents can do to keep their grandchildren safe from accidental injuries.
As grandparents, our instinct to keep our grandchildren safe is so strong! It can feel frightening to watch the news, knowing they are growing up in a world that often seems like a precarious place. Viruses, natural disasters, political unrest, global warming: There is so much we can’t protect them from.
But there is also so much we can do to keep them safe. Understanding the most common sources of accidental injury and taking steps to reduce those risks is something we can all do. Yet too many of us don’t take the time.
If that's to change, the first step is to know what the dangers are. Do you know what the most common causes of accidental injury in children under five are? Here they are (in alphabetical order, not by risk):
Most accidents can be prevented. Are you doing all you can to keep your grandkids safe while they are in your home or under your care? Remember that accidents happen in the blink of an eye, and most of us are not as prepared for the impulsiveness of small children as we once were.
Let’s change that and take these important steps to keep our grandchildren safe:
Supervise your grandchildren at all times
Never leave a young child alone, especially near water, stairs, flames, or sharp objects. If you have a pool, stream, or fishpond on your property, you need to be especially vigilant. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-4, and one that can be prevented with some simple steps. All grandparents should read What Grandparents Need to Know: Water Safety, even if the only source of water at your home is the bathtub.
Our grandchildren are being raised differently. Does this mean we were bad parents?
Do you know who your adult children’s favorite parenting expert is? While many grandparents would like to think that they are the one their kids rely on for advice on childrearing, more and more often that isn’t true. When we were raising our kids, we tended to parent either as we had been raised—or as far from that as possible! We had very few experts to choose from: T. Berry Brazelton, Dr. Spock and Penelope Leach are the only ones I can think of! (If you have any more, drop them in the comments!)
Thanks to the wonders of modern communication, parents today have a wide range of experts and parent influencers to lean on for advice about the best way to raise healthy, well-adjusted children. This means that there’s a good chance that the way your grandchildren are being raised is different from the way you raised your kids.
The reason these methods are growing in popularity is that they are based on more recent research, not because what we did was “wrong”. As grandparents, understanding the “new ways” allows us to better support our children’s parenting journey, and helps us appreciate that our own parenting is not being judged.
The New Ways of Parenting
What are those new ways? There are several, but labels include gentle parenting, peaceful parenting, conscious parenting and unconditional parenting. This post isn’t going to go into details about each method’s gurus and differences, but instead focus on what they have in common.
All of these are evidence-based philosophies for fostering the qualities you want in your child by being compassionate and enforcing consistent boundaries. Instead of focusing on children’s behavior, parents focus on their emotions and helping children to learn to regulate themselves. The idea is that by being gentle when a child is angry, frustrated, or acting out, parents are modeling tolerance and flexibility and teaching them how to be well-adjusted humans.
This doesn’t mean that bad behavior is ignored. One of the common tenets is that while all feelings are acceptable, not all behaviors are. For example, if a toddler grabs a toy from their baby brother, instead of sternly telling them they can’t play with that right now, a gentle approach would be to say, “I know it’s hard when someone else is playing with something you want. You’ll be able to play with the car when Robbie’s done with it. Would you like to draw a picture while you wait?” You’d still enforce the rule of “No Grabbing”, but your response shows you understand your child’s feelings and you are modeling how to handle difficult situations, which will give them the emotional resilience they’ll need as they grow.
A review of Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be
by Dr. Becky Kennedy
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“Understanding has one goal: connection. And because connecting to our kids is how they learn to regulate their emotions and feel good inside, understanding will come up over and over again as a goal of communication.”
As you can tell by the title, Good Inside is a parenting book, not a book about grandparenting. When I set out to read it for a chat with Emily and Mike Morgan for The Grand Life Podcast, I didn’t plan to review it for you. Normally, I review grandparenting books, and books for your grandchildren. I don’t review parenting books.
Yet here I am, reviewing a parenting book--because I think grandparents should read it.
Why should grandparents read this review, and then read this book? Two reasons. One, it may help you understand how your grandchildren are being raised. And two, it may help you improve the relationships you have with…well, everyone.
Let’s address the first reason. Good Inside is a how-to book for parents who want to raise their children with an emphasis on connection rather than control. Dr. Kennedy, like many modern parenting experts, believes that the healthiest way to raise a child is to help them learn to regulate their emotions, their moods, and eventually their actions. By recognizing that a child’s actions are age-appropriate expressions of their emotions, a parent can strive for connection rather than control.
This approach is the basis for parenting philosophies like positive parenting and gentle parenting. It doesn’t mean parents don’t set boundaries; in fact, strong boundaries are a crucial part of the picture. If your children are following one of these current parenting trends, reading Good Inside will help you understand and support them as they raise your grandchildren.
As for the second reason grandparents should read this book: it contains simple wisdom that will help you better communicate with your spouse, your parents, your children, your boss, your employees, your neighbors, your friends…you get the picture.
Dr. Kennedy has two easy-to-remember mantras that make true connection possible. One is the “Most Generous Interpretation” or MGI. This is the idea that in any situation, thinking the best of the person instead of the worst will help you respond in a kind way. For parents, this may be recognizing that the child who pushed a toddler off the slide is not a bad kid, and not a product of bad parenting. Instead, it’s a child who is having a hard time, and acting badly because of it.
Try summoning the MGI next time you are cut off in traffic by an inconsiderate driver. What if, instead of swearing that they need to do something about giving licenses to idiots, you think of a scenario that explains their action in a generous light: maybe they are distracted because they just got bad new on a phone call. Maybe they are racing to pick up their wife who called to say she’s in labor.
Doing this won’t change the fact they cut you off, but it is likely to make you feel calmer and less upset. Applying this same principal to the people in your life will help you treat them with grace and respect.
The other principal that Dr Kennedy encourages parents to embrace is the idea that “Two Things Are True.” You’ll see in this paragraph from her book why this will help you in all your relationships:
Building strong connections relies on the assumption that no one is right in the absolute, because understanding, not convincing, is what makes people feel secure in a relationship. What do I mean by understanding and not convincing? Well, when we seek to understand, we attempt to see and learn more about another person’s perspective, feelings, and experience. We essentially say to that person, “I am having one experience and you are having a different experience. I want to get to know what’s happening for you.” It doesn’t mean you agree or comply (these would imply a “one thing is true” perspective), or that we are “wrong” or our truth doesn’t hold; it means we are willing to put our own experience aside for a moment to get to know someone else’s. When we approach someone with the goal of understanding, we accept that there isn’t one correct interpretation of a set of facts, but rather multiple experiences and viewpoints.
A good portion of Good Inside is made up of advice for specific behavior struggles. Grandparents may find this less interesting, unless they are involved in day-to-day care for their grandchildren. Because of this, you may hesitate to buy the book. My suggestion? Buy a copy and pass it on to your kids when you are done. Don’t tell them you think it’s how they should parent, just let them know you found it interesting and would love to know what they think after they’ve read it.
It's likely to be a great conversation!
Speaking of conversations, make sure you’ve subscribed to The Grand Life wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss the episode where I discuss this book and more with Emily & Mike Morgan.
What grandparents need to know about holiday safety hazards
Are you planning to spend time this holiday season with your grandbaby? If so, I’m jealous—it’s the other grandparents’ turn this year. On the other hand, this means that we won’t have any visitors that we need to keep away from the sparkling tree, and we can leave candles on the coffee table!
When there are small children in the house during holiday gatherings, there are a lot of hazards that we need to minimize. Whether you are hosting or visiting, there are some holiday safety tips that will help to protect your grandchildren from those hazards. Make sure you read them all and follow these safety precautions during the holidays.
Fire: Flames are enticing to small children and burns happen fast. Keep candles and matches out of reach, and gate off the fireplace or watch that baby like a hawk at all times. Never leave a child alone in a room with an open flame.
Plants: While it’s a myth that poinsettias are poisonous, other holiday plants, like mistletoe, holly, and Jerusalem cherry are a danger to exploring babies and toddlers. Keep them out of reach.
Choking hazards: The holiday home is usually filled with choking hazards. Anything that can fit through a toilet paper tube can cause a child to choke. Be vigilant about small toys, gift wrapping, decorations, button batteries, nuts, popcorn, hard candies, etc.
Button batteries and hearing aid batteries: These are more than just a choking hazard. If swallowed, these round, flat batteries can be fatal. Button batteries are found in everything from children’s toys to your car key fob. Make sure they are not accessible.
Alcohol: Large family gatherings often result in glasses of sweet tasting alcohol being left where a child can sample them. Remind adults to keep track of their drinks, and quickly clean up leftovers.
Christmas tree: Grandchildren are understandably attracted to the Christmas tree. While you may not need to fence off the tree entirely, you do need to keep small and breakable baubles out of a child’s reach. Make sure you use a sturdy stand that can’t be tipped over. If you have a real tree, keep it well watered to minimize fire risk. Unplug tree lights at night and when you leave the house.
Safety gear: If you are giving your grandchild a new bike, skates or scooter, make sure you provide safety gear. The only thing worse than getting hurt on your new bike is being told you can’t ride it until you get a helmet.
Toys: Make sure toys are age appropriate: those suggested ages are often for safety reasons. Check for loose parts and choking hazards, and make sure any button battery compartments can only be opened with a screwdriver.
Kitchen: A busy kitchen is never safe for small children, but during the holidays, cooks can be extra distracted. Make sure pot handles are turned away from the front of the stove and sharp knives aren’t left at the edge of the counter. Better yet, declare the cooking zone off-limits to kids and find a way to engage them in another room.
Visitors bags: Purses, suitcases, and shopping bags are full of delights for an exploring toddler. They are also full of hazards, from medications to coins. Make sure any visitors’ bags are kept out of reach, and keep your medications where there is no chance a child can get to them. Up to 20 percent of pediatric poisonings involve a grandparent’s medication!
Viruses: This year, in addition to seasonal flu and Covid-19, cases of RSV are extremely high. Babies and toddlers are especially vulnerable to this serious illness. Take extra precautions to make sure everyone in the family is doing all they can to minimize the chance of exposure, and be understanding if parents decide gatherings aren’t in the best interest of their children this year.
Holiday gatherings are chaotic enough without worrying about a child being injured. Follow these holiday safety reminders to make sure your holidays memories are happy ones.
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When my first two children were born, the advice was to put them to sleep on their stomachs. By the time the second two were born, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had launched their “Back to Sleep” campaign. This campaign, debuting in 1994, cut sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) rates in half. Sadly, over 3400 babies under the age of one still die without explanation. Some experts believe the number officially attributed to SIDS is an underestimate.
Whatever the actual number is, this is an undisputable fact: Every baby lost to SIDS is a tragedy.
October is SIDS awareness month, and grandparents can help prevent a tragedy in their own family in two ways: getting educated and helping to educate others.
Learn about safe sleep
The AAP currently recommends that infants sleep in their parents’ room. They should be in a crib or bassinet that is close to the parents’ bed for at least the first 6 months, and ideally a year. Breastfeeding mothers can co-sleep if they follow important safety guidelines.
If your grandchild is sleeping at your house, they shouldn’t sleep in your bed, with or without you. Our own beds, with their pillows, blankets, and soft, side-less mattresses are never a safe place for baby to sleep. Nor should they fall asleep on us, no matter how cute it is to see Grandpa and Junior napping together in the recliner. Our couches and chairs are not designed to keep a baby safe, and they don’t.
In 2022, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned many products previously marketed as sleep solutions for infants. These include inclined sleepers, in-bed sleepers, baby boxes, sleep hammocks and small bassinets without a stand, such as the ones that fit on top of a portable crib. These types of products have been responsible for dozens of infant deaths, and are still being passed along by neighbors, sold in resale shops, and found at garage sales. Make sure you do not use or pass along of these products. Check the CPSC website for more information.
Your grandbaby’s environment should be smoke and vape free.
The latest car seat guidelines to keep your grandchild safe in the car
Do you remember baby car seats from the 1970’s? They weren’t so much designed to keep children safe as to keep them from roaming around the car. By the eighties, safety became the main focus, and by 1986 they were mandatory in all fifty US states and Australia. Canada and the UK did not have universal car seat laws until 2006/7!
Car seats, and the advice about the best way to use them, have definitely evolved since our children were young. For example, it is now recommended that babies be placed in a rear-facing car seat for the first two to four years of life. This provides maximum protection for the head, neck and spine during the years that their developing bodies are the most vulnerable to injury.
If you will ever be driving your grandchild, it’s important to know what the latest recommendations are. Here are some tips that will get you started on the path to safety.
If you want to buy a car seat for your own car, there are safe options available at all price points. Make sure you’ve checked with the parents to confirm you get the right kind for your grandchild’s age and size. Also, not all seats fit safely in all vehicles, so try to test a seat out before you buy it.
Never borrow or buy a used car seat unless you know its history. It may be unsafe if it’s old or has been in an accident. Always check Recalls.gov when buying or borrowing car seats, and check the seat itself for the expiration date. (Did you know they have expiration dates? As they age, parts can become brittle or worn, making them less effective. If you can’t find the date on the car seat, you can call the manufacturer.)
A frightening 59% of car seats are not installed correctly. Proper installation can mean the difference between life and death in an accident. Make sure you read and follow both your vehicle’s owner’s manual and the car seat manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Proper installation is crucial to protecting your grandbaby.
Pay special attention to these four common mistakes:
Install the seat when you are unhurried—not when you first need to get your grandbaby somewhere. It’s not unusual for it to take 30-45 minutes to properly install a new car seat for the first time. Make the effort to search for a YouTube video or guide for your specific seat and car. Websites like The Car Seat Lady and Car Seats for the Littles are great resources. When properly installed, the car seat should move no more than one inch from side to side.
If possible, get a car seat inspection from a certified technician. Find one at nhtsa.gov.
When your grandchild is in the seat, make sure the chest clip is properly aligned: about even with your grandchild’s armpits. If it’s too low, they can be ejected in a crash; too high, and a neck injury can occur. The harness straps should be at or above the child’s shoulders in a forward-facing seat and at or below the shoulders in a rear-facing seat. The harness should be tight enough so that you can’t pinch the strap together at all. Don’t buckle the straps over bulky clothing, coats or blankets.
Don’t let your grandchild eat or drink while they are in their car seat, and avoid toys that could cause an injury if they were to go flying in a crash.
And finally, use the seat every single time. No exceptions.
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Making sure immunizations are up-to-date is one of the things expectant grandparents should put on their to-do list.
I found myself needing a new primary care physician when my grandson was about a year old. After a long search I found a doctor who seemed to have all the qualities I was looking for. At our first appointment, she put me at ease immediately as we chatted about why I was looking for a new physician. Then she reviewed my health history, and said with clear surprise, “I don’t see a recent DtaP booster on your record. Didn’t you need one to visit your grandson?”
It had never occurred to me that I should be getting vaccine boosters to protect my newborn grandchildren, and my last doctor hadn’t ever mentioned it. Nor did my son or his wife bring it up, probably assuming I was as boosted as I needed to be. I’ve since learned that getting immunizations is one of the things expectant grandparents should put on their to-do list.
Remember, I’m not a health professional and this is not medical advice. Rather, I’m providing this information for you to discuss with your own health care provider.
Why do grandparents need immunizations?
Newborns can’t be immunized from some of the highly contagious diseases for which we have vaccines. At the same time, those diseases are incredibly dangerous in a child that young. The best way to protect them is by making sure the people around them are vaccinated and boosted, so that there is almost no chance they can pass along a preventable illness.
I saw this first hand when my son contracted measles when he was a year old. He wasn’t due for the immunization for another few months, and watching his limp little body fight off a serious disease was frightening. I firmly believe that anyone who is anti-vaccine has never seen their child seriously ill.
Which immunizations do grandparents need?
Here’s a list of the most important immunizations for grandparents. Even if you’ve been vaccinated against some of them in the past, you may need a booster. Talk to your doctor about the following:
TdaP At the top of the list is the TdaP, which protects you and your grandchild from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Since diphtheria is incredibly rare, and tetanus isn’t contagious, the big concern is pertussis. Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, is both highly contagious and extremely serious. About half of the babies who contract pertussis end up in the hospital, and the mortality rate babies under six weeks old is over 30%. Some hospitals don’t allow visitors to the birthing wing without proof of current vaccination.
MMR It's also important to make sure your MMR is up-to-date. Measles, mumps and rubella are all preventable illnesses that can have make a baby very sick. Of these, the biggest concern is measles. Though the death rate for measles is low, the potential long-term effects can be devastating: it can cause brain damage, deafness, or a truly frightening disease called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE). (Which I’m really glad I hadn’t read about before researching this article, or I would have spent a lot of years worrying after my son had measles.)
Pneumonia & flu You’ll also want to get a pneumonia vaccine for pneumococcal diseases, as bacterial pneumonia in infants is serious and can cause life-threatening infections of the blood, brain and spinal cord. Since bacterial pneumonia is also dangerous for older adults, you’ll be protecting yourself as well. The same hold true for influenza—you are protecting both yourself and your infant grandchild against an illness that can be serious.
Shingles While babies can’t get shingles, they could contract chickenpox from someone infected with shingles. The newer Shingrix vaccine cannot transmit the virus the way the older, live vaccine did, so there is no danger of giving your grandchild chickenpox after being vaccinated.
Covid-19 While Covid-19 has so far shown to be relatively mild in babies, getting this vaccine is important to protect yourself and the rest of your community.
When should grandparents get vaccines?
As soon as you know there’s a baby on the way, you’ll want to check with your doctor about what shots you need. It takes time for your body to build immunity, and some vaccines require more than one dose to provide full protection. Your doctor can go over your health history and make sure you have all the immunizations you need to protect both yourself and your new grandchild.
Protecting our grandchildren is one of our most basic instincts, and getting immunized is an important way to do it. For more information, please speak with your own health care team.
What Else Grandparents Need To Know: