School-gate grans… why ev­ery­one ben­e­fits!

Grand­par­ents may be the key to hap­pier child­care

Prima (UK) - - Contents -

As lit­tle ones come run­ning out of school, these days it’s not nec­es­sar­ily their mum or dad’s arms that they race into. With both par­ents likely to be work­ing, more grand­par­ents are do­ing the school run, pro­vid­ing the care that young­sters need at the start and end of their school day. Out of 14 mil­lion grand­par­ents in the UK, five mil­lion help with child­care in one way or an­other, ac­cord­ing to Age UK (ageuk.org.uk). ‘Grand­par­ents re­ally love help­ing out,’ says Sharon Slade, co-founder of The Grand­par­ent Hub( the grand par­ent hub. com). ‘And they know that of­ten, with­out their help, their chil­dren wouldn’t be able to re­turn to work. It makes them feel val­ued and brings them real joy.’

But the ar­range­ment may not al­ways run so smoothly. Here, the ex­perts re­veal how you can iron out any awk­ward­ness…

QHow do I ap­proach my par­ents about look­ing af­ter my chil­dren?

A‘Ask away,’ says Jane Fearn­ley­whit­tingstall, au­thor of The Good Granny Guide. ‘It may just never have oc­curred to them to of­fer. Ask in a way that al­lows them to say “no” if they don’t want to be in­volved. How­ever, most grand­par­ents would be quite pleased about spend­ing time with their grand­chil­dren and be­ing trusted to look af­ter them.’ Jane, 79, has six grand­chil­dren aged from eight to 21 and has the youngest one af­ter­noon a week. She says, ‘My daugh­ter-in­law sug­gested that it might be lovely for me to look af­ter my grand­daugh­ter – and she was right. For me it is a priv­i­lege to be in­volved in her life.’

QHow much is too much to ask?

ALucy Peake, chief ex­ec­u­tive at Grand­par­ents Plus (grand­par­entsplus.org. uk) says, ‘Look­ing af­ter grand­chil­dren should be a joy, not a duty, so it is vi­tal that a grand­par­ent doesn’t find them­self over-com­mit­ting.’

Lucy says there may be a ‘tip­ping point’ where it could be­come too much.

‘That point will be dif­fer­ent for dif­fer­ent peo­ple, de­pend­ing on their health or car­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties at home, and both sides need to recog­nise this.

Other things like be­ing with their part­ner, see­ing their friends or do­ing their job shouldn’t suf­fer as a re­sult.’

Jane echoes this. ‘If they are still work­ing, it might sim­ply be too hard for them to help out. And if they are older, it can be very tir­ing. One day a

week is enough for me,’ she says.

QWhat’s in it for grand­par­ents?

AWith grand­par­ents es­ti­mated to col­lec­tively save par­ents al­most £16bil­lion in child­care costs per year, the ben­e­fits

‘It’s im­por­tant to cher­ish time with your grand­chil­dren – they grow up too quick’

for par­ents are clear. ‘But Gran can get a lot out of it, too,’ says Jane. ‘Look­ing af­ter a lit­tle one brings back your own mem­o­ries of child­hood. I find my­self go­ing on the swings or driv­ing along singing nurs­ery rhymes that I re­mem­ber from when I was young. It’s nice to pass things like that on. The key for a grand­par­ent is not to do things you don’t want to do. I re­cently tried origami with my grand­daugh­ter and I en­joyed it as much as she did. It’s im­por­tant to cher­ish time with your grand­chil­dren – they grow up too quick.’

QWill my chil­dren get bored at Gran’s house?

ANo chance! Sharon says, ‘Grand­par­ents are bril­liant at com­ing up with lots of bore­dom-bust­ing ideas. They help chil­dren see the sim­pler side of life and en­cour­age things that they did in their own child­hood, such as mak­ing dens or dig­ging up veg­eta­bles.’

Grand­par­ents can also give chil­dren a real sense of se­cu­rity and un­der­stand­ing of where they come from. By telling them old fam­ily sto­ries, they can help chil­dren find out about their place in the world.

To make sure that they al­ways have some­thing to do there, agree for some toys and colour­ing books to be kept at their grand­par­ents’ house.

QShould I pay my par­ents to look af­ter my chil­dren?

AKatharine Hill, UK director at Care for the Fam­ily (care­forthe­fam­ily.org.uk), says, ‘While many grand­par­ents are quite happy to look af­ter their grand­chil­dren for noth­ing, it’s a good idea to have an open dis­cus­sion about money and who is ex­pected to pay for what. One com­mon ar­range­ment is for par­ents to cover ex­penses, such as the cost of out­ings. If they won’t agree to this, treat­ing them to a meal out once in a while or buy­ing them a small gift is a nice way to show that their help is ap­pre­ci­ated.’

QI’m strict, Gran isn’t. Whose rules are right?

AChil­dren thrive with con­sis­tent bound­aries, so make sure that ev­ery­one is read­ing from the same rule­book. Some fam­i­lies go by the prin­ci­ple that Gran’s rules ap­ply in her house and that the par­ents’ rules ap­ply at home.

Katharine says, ‘It’s widely ac­cepted that it’s a grand­par­ent’s job to spoil their grand­chil­dren, but if this is hap­pen­ing on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and un­der­mines the bound­aries that you have put in

place, it needs to be ad­dressed. Ex­plain that while you ap­pre­ci­ate the help they are pro­vid­ing, and that you know their in­ten­tions are good, they are your chil­dren and your rules need to be re­spected.’

QCan I ex­pect my par­ents to do the school run?

AWhen it comes to schools, grand­par­ents have an im­por­tant part to play. ‘The more grand­par­ents put into school life, the more they will get out,’ says Lucy Peake. ‘If they can vol­un­teer at school or sup­port events, they will feel more of a part of the school com­mu­nity than if they just drop the chil­dren off.’

Schools are in­creas­ingly recog­nis­ing that grand­par­ents are a boon to the wider school com­mu­nity as well. ‘At my chil­dren’s pri­mary school, they cel­e­brate Grand­par­ents’ Day each Oc­to­ber,’ says Lucy. ‘It gives grand­par­ents the op­por­tu­nity to come in and see the chil­dren’s work. One grand­mother even runs an af­ter-school sewing club.’

Don’t for­get… When grand­par­ents look af­ter grand­chil­dren, it’s im­por­tant that nei­ther they nor the par­ents for­get their place in the world. Lucy says, ‘Re­mem­ber that you’re a gran, not a child­min­der. That is what makes the re­la­tion­ship spe­cial.’

• To find out more about grand­par­ents’ rights, visit grand­par­entsplus.org.uk

of grand­par­ents say they en­joy time spent with their grand­chil­dren and the op­por­tu­nity to watch them flourish.

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