This post was originally published in August 2020. We’ve updated it and wanted to share it again while we are focusing on safety.
You try to do everything you can to keep your grandchildren safe.
You pay attention to the way they sleep, make sure the car seat is installed correctly, and don’t let them ride off on their bike without their helmet. But there are dangers in the world that go beyond the physical—and one is a danger that didn’t exist when your own children were young.
If you are one of the 75% of grandparents who uses social media, you may be endangering your grandchildren in a way you never considered.
Facebook and Instagram have replaced the pictures of their grandchildren that grandmothers used to carry. Now instead of pulling out their wallet to show off the latest, grandparents share those photos with their friends on social media. And even if they are very careful with their privacy settings, they are also sharing them with the world. Any photo posted publicly can be used by anyone for anything. Moreover, photos posted privately can still end up being shared more widely than the poster intended.
But it’s not just the photos that are shared—it’s the information that goes with them.
A million children in the US were victims of identity theft in 2017. Too many grandparents post photos on social media with information that exposes their children and grandchildren to identity theft and hackers. Personally identifiable information should be treated like gold, and yet every day I see public posts announcing the birth of a baby with full name and birthdate mentioned. Many of these posts make it easy to figure out birthplace and mother’s maiden name, too. That proud and unsuspecting grandparent has just handed a potential identity thief four of the most useful pieces of information they could want. Even with your privacy settings set as securely as possible, nothing that is posted on the internet is truly secure.
Our grandchildren are the first generation of children to grow up with social media since birth. Unlike most aspects of being a parent or grandparent, there is no collective wisdom guiding us on how to navigate the ability to share every moment of these children's lives. It's up to each of us to educate ourselves and safeguard our grandchildren.
To help grandparents use social media safely, More Than Grand offers a handy tip sheet for protecting your grandchild’s privacy online. You can download it here.
PS: I highly recommend getting a copy of Growing Up Shared by Stacey Steinburg to learn more about how social media may be impacting our grandchildren.
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What if you had to save your grandchild in an emergency?
Last spring, on a quiet weekend afternoon, my son and daughter-in-law heard a frantic knocking on their front door. When my daughter-in-law opened the door, it wasn’t a neighborhood child wanting to play, the way she expected. It was a distraught neighbor.
“There’s a baby! She’s not breathing!”
A young mother had come to the neighborhood to buy something she’d seen on Craig’s list. Her infant was in a car seat in the back of the car, and had apparently spit up and aspirated some of it. When she discovered the baby wasn’t breathing, she panicked. The neighbor, knowing my son had medical training, raced to his house. While my daughter-in-law called 911, my son rushed across the street. He was able to clear her airway and she quickly started breathing normally. He says he spent more time helping the mother calm down from the full state of panic she’d entered than he did helping the baby. By the time the paramedics arrived, everyone was okay. (They did take the baby to the hospital to make sure she didn’t need further care.)
How lucky for that baby that the neighbor knew there was someone nearby who could help! And that my son happened to be home! Emergencies don’t always turn out so well. How much better it would have been if her mother had known the steps to take to help her child.
As grandparents, keeping our grandchildren safe should be one of our highest priorities. Are we really prepared for emergencies? Because if we aren’t prepared, we have to rely on luck to ensure a happy ending. And luck is notoriously unreliable.
Will you join me in pledging to get prepared?
Last week, Gail Gould, the CPR and Safety Lady, shared some important tips on keeping our grandchildren safe. Let’s re-read them and create a plan to follow them.
Instead of buying the baby another outfit, let’s spend the time and money on an infant/child CPR class.
Instead of researching fun activities to entertain our grandchildren, let’s learn the proper way to install the car seats in our vehicles.
Instead of assuming our house is safe, let’s educate ourselves on the dangers it may hold and eliminate them.
Let’s teach them to swim, watch them like hawks, and learn the difference between choking and gagging.
On Thursday, July 15 at 3pm Central Time, Gail will be joining me on Instagram Live to do a short demo on infant/child CPR and choking relief. Will you pledge to join us? It’s 15 minutes that could save your grandchild’s life.
If you can’t make it while we are live, it will be saved on my Instagram account under the little TV icon, so you can come watch it later!
We've just updated the Baby Care and Safety section of our comprehensive resource, New Grandparents Essentials, where you can get all the latest information to keep your grandbaby safe--and a whole lot more!
What Grandparents Need to Know About Child Safety
This week's post is by Gail Gould, a CPR and safety expert who has some life-saving tips for grandparents.
I often shudder at the thought of how close I came to not being a mom and what my life would look like without my precious son.
I got married at 36 years old and started trying to get pregnant at age 39. After unsuccessfully trying for a few years, we gave up. Still, something inside of me knew that a childless life was not for me. My husband and I went on an adoption journey that lasted 8 long years. My son came into my life at age 49 and it has been the best 17 years of my life! I do not take a single day for granted with my son, and I sometimes become upset when I see parents who leave their toddler unattended in the car or parents who are not paying attention while their children are swimming.
I have been a professional CPR instructor for over 30 years and have trained 10,000 people to save lives. My mission is to CPR train as many parents, grandparents, teachers, and caregivers as possible. I think it should be required for all new parents to take a CPR course prior to bringing baby home! I am not in charge, though, so this is currently not a requirement.
Studies show that 70% of parents would not know how to respond in a medical or injury emergency. Knowing how to perform CPR and choking relief is very important. Possibly even more important is prevention, since it is best to never need CPR in the first place. Survival rates for children who lose consciousness and stop breathing are only 4-13%.
So, here are a few prevention tips that all parents, grandparents, teachers, and caregivers should follow:
Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children and adolescents. In 2017, there were 1000 children who died as a result of unintentional drowning.
"My experience of being a grandma has underscored how we can have all the plans in the world about what our grandparenting journey will be, but we need to be willing to pivot as life throws us new challenges."
One of the things we encourage at More Than Grand is creating a formal Grand Vision as the first step to becoming the grandparent you want to be. But as today’s guest writer shares, no matter what your vision of grandparenting is, you have to be ready to abandon Plan A and embrace Plan B—and possibly more of the alphabet.
by Marilee Whiting Woodfield
I had a vision in my mind about what grandparenting was like from watching my own grandparents, and then my parents and in-laws as they grandparented my children. I thought I knew what grandparenting was all about, or at least what it would look like.
Our life was 1200 miles from both sets of grandparents in a pre-internet and cellphone era, so we did not have the advantage of having them in our lives regularly. We supplemented with videos, letters and phone calls, but realistically, Grandparenting looked like long-distance relationships and occasional visits for my children.
My father once remarked, “You shouldn’t have to be introduced to your grandchildren.” I felt the same regret at not having those close relationships. To complicate matters, my first child took a while to warm to having semi-strangers in her space —strangers that desperately wanted to spend their time and attention on her. More than once she’d finally let them befriend her on the last day of their visit, only to have them leave again. And we would repeat the whole process the next time they arrived.
When my first grandson was born, he lived far away. Fortunately, I had access to Skymiles and took advantage of the opportunity that my circumstances allowed by visiting often. The blessing of technology allowed me to be “there” nearly daily (and some days more than once) through FaceTime calls which filled in as the next best thing when I couldn’t be there in person.
I would spend a few days and then return to my life at home which was quiet. Other than regular FaceTime calls, and an occasional visit, my life and my grandparenting life were separated. The toys were tucked away, there were no goldfish crackers and applesauce pouches in my pantry, and the Pack ’n Play grew dust on the top shelf of the closet.
Recently, job change opportunities for my kids brought all my grandkids close to home and that meant a series of new grandparenting pivots. One of my grandkids and his parents moved in with us for a short time while they were navigating housing, which meant I got to grandparent full time. The quiet house was filled with a new level of activity that all revolved around a 1-year-old grandchild. Safety gates went up, the toys took a central stage, diapers piled up in the trash bin, and the basket of children’s books grew. Mealtimes, naptimes, and bedtimes all became a part of the daily rhythm of life. My other grandchild lived a short drive away, and we wore a steady path on the road between our homes. Weekends were full of family and grandkids and the resulting chaos of clamoring cousins and a home full of family. Now, instead of being separated from grandparenting, my life revolved around my grandparenting.
Nurturing mindfulness in your grandchildren gives them a gift they can use for life.
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The hot days of summer are here, and with three small children at home, peaceful moments are bound to be in short supply at my grandchildren's house! Especially for my daughter-in-law, who is home all day while my son works ridiculously long hours. The heat and humidity in their home state is unbearable for my SoCal constitution, so I avoid visiting during the summer. I try to make up for not being on the ground to help out by providing activities they can do with minimal parental commitment.
This month, I sent a virtual mindfulness retreat. The simplest definition of mindfulness is paying full attention to something, and paying attention is a crucial skill for kids! Helping them learn to focus, breath and relax will help them deal with frustration and stress, something that is part of everyone’s life. What did I include?
First, Yogi, a yoga card game that includes a variety of kids’ activities.
While yoga and mindfulness are two distinct things, they share many elements. Yoga helps kids pay attention to their bodies and breath. It’s also a great activity when it’s too hot for a bike ride! The report from the ground was that they loved it.
Next, My First Mandalas Coloring Book and new markers from Crayola, Pip-Squeaks Skinnies. These washable markers are designed for little hands, and the box of 64 colors was met with complete and utter delight. SO MANY COLORS! Despite that, a certain three-year-old still colored her first mandala almost entirely in pink.
And of course, books!
Mindfulness for Little Ones: Playful Activities to Foster Empathy, Self-Awareness, and Joy in Kids by Hiedi France, Ed.D will require a parent or grandparent to read and lead the activities, but adds another tool to the arsenal of ways to spend long summer afternoons.
The adorable board book, Mindfulness Moments for Kids: Breathe Like a Bear by Kira Willey, shares mindful meditation exercises for the very young. Anni Betts’ beautiful illustrations featuring a sweet bear cub show children how to feel calm.
A classic, The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown, asks children to think deeply about the importance of everyday objects. The simple concept and colorful pictures resonated with the grandchildren: it’s been a repeated request at story time since they got it.
And finally, A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles, by Thich Nhat Hanh, shares the concept of mindfulness in a way that children can understand and practice. Pebble mediation is a simple practice that can relieve stress, increase concentration, nourish gratitude, and help children deal with difficult emotions. It’s a book we might all want to read!
I also sent a tiny gift for my daughter-in-law: some soap that smells like one of her favorite teas. My hope is that when she uses it, she will breathe deeply, remember she is loved, and find a mindful moment of joy—or at least peace!
Like any other skill, mindfulness takes practice to develop. Introducing it while they are young will help your grandchildren learn to understand their emotions and develop a useful tool for handling life’s stress.
Do you practice mindfulness? Have you shared it with your grandchildren? Let us know in the comments!
Does mindfulness fit with your goals as a grandparent?
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Finally! Covid restrictions had eased, we’d all been vaccinated, and we were going to spend a glorious six days with our grandchildren and their parents! It had been seven months since we’d seen them, and the baby had gone from a barely scooting bug to a fully walking toddler. We’d missed so much! I was determined to make the most of every day. I’d read Grandparenting: Renew, Relive, Rejoice and was committed to being fully present during the short time we’d have together.
Within a day, I realized I’d forgotten something crucial: being with small children is an endurance sport, and I’m not an endurance athlete. Trying to be fully present created an intense overload on my system, especially after the cocoon I’d been living in during Covid. So how could I use the lessons of mindfulness to deepen our relationship without ending up longing for the end of the visit? What was I doing wrong, that one day with my grandchildren left me exhausted?
That night, I reread my grandparent vision statement and Grand Plan*. No where did my grandparenting plan include being fully present at all times. What it did include was letting my grandchildren know they were important to me, and helping out my children as much as possible. I needed to take the principles of mindfulness and apply them to help me be the grandmother I wanted to be. There were five ways to be more mindful that I found fit well with my goals.
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Grandparenting: RENEW, RELIVE, REJOICE is a simple, user-friendly guide to being more present in the moments you have with your grandchildren. It suggests practical, actionable activities to help you fully enjoy the time you have together. Students of mindfulness will be familiar with many of the techniques, but even mindfulness masters will appreciate the suggestions for sharing those techniques with your grandchildren.
The suggestions in early chapters seemed like common sense to me, but later chapters had activities that I look forward to trying with my grandchildren. I especially loved the section on listening, an area where we can all use some improvement! Generously interspersed with the mindfulness suggestions are charming anecdotes from grandparents. If you love reading stories that make you go, “Aww”, you will enjoy this book for the stories alone.
If you are a grandparent who has been curious about mindfulness, this book would be a great place to start. It’s probably most helpful to grandparents who see their grandchildren often and regularly, though some of the ideas would work during infrequent visits, as well.
Ready to be a more mindful grandparent? Order it today!
If you’ve read it, please share your thoughts about the book in the comments!
When your furry family members get displaced
A couple of years before our first grandchild was born, one of our daughters adopted a dog from a local shelter. “Reggie” was a strikingly handsome dog with an unknown, but clearly complicated, history. He was scared to go through half open doors and terrified by the low-battery chirp of a smoke detector. He almost never barked, and looked scared and apologetic when he did. But he had at one point been loved and well trained: he was impeccably housetrained and could sit, lie down, shake and beg on command. As he became confident that he was in a permanent, loving home, he learned to play and even bark without fear. Part cattle dog, he was smart and loyal, and, for this independent daughter, he was the perfect addition to her family—and ours.
Eventually, however, Reggie’s reign as the most charming addition to the family was threatened by the birth of our grandson. When Thanksgiving rolled around, the two of them were both visiting us. This was when the admittedly competitive daughter started a running list of Reasons Why Dogs Are Superior to Babies. Granted, at this point Reggie was clearly smarter and more capable than the 5-month-old grandson. It wasn’t hard for her to feel sure she was making a better choice in family expansion than her brother!
And so, in no particular order, here are ten points in favor of skipping the whole grandbaby thing and just heading to the shelter:
It took almost a year before my daughter conceded that her nephew might have an edge in some areas. One of them is pictured above: dogs will never be great artists!
Why is this story included on a grandparenting blog? Because a new grandchild creates changing family dynamics that aren't limited to the new roles of parents and grandparents. It's important to be aware of the ways that aunts and uncles, cousins and, yes, even pets, are affected.
Do you have a family member who prefers dogs to babies? Let me know in the comments!