Getting Grandparent Caregivers on Board

By Nicole Pelletiere 

There’s nothing grandparents love more than spending time with their grandkids.  When it comes to child safety, though, grandparent caregivers aren’t always up to date on the latest standards, finds a new study from the University of Alabama.

Today, nearly 3 million grandparents are primary caregivers to grandchildren. But when asked by researchers about important baby safety information like the best position for a baby to sleep in, proper car seat positioning, and whether bumpers and blankets belong in infant cribs, a large percentage of grandparents gave the wrong answer.

The findings are a little scary, for sure. But in a way, they’re understandable: Most grandparents are just used to doing things today in the same way they did when they raised their own kids, and haven’t been made aware of the updates, Fran Walfish, Psy.D., a psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, California.

Still, that’s no excuse for not bringing them up to speed on today’s child safety recommendations. It’s just a matter of asserting your authority without stepping on anyone’s toes. Here’s how to (gently) sway Grandma and Grandpa your way.

Make safety a conversation
No adult wants to be dictated to, and that includes grandparents. Engage them with respect and curiosity by asking open-ended questions like, “What do you think about us buying an activity saucer instead of a walker?” If they disagree, point out the safety recommendations and let them know that you’d rather be safe than sorry. It shows that you respect their opinion without forfeiting your duty as parent, explains Walfish.

Promote fun education
If your parents haven’t dealt with babies in decades, they probably haven’t been exposed to parenting magazines and websites, or pediatricians, who help spread the word on safety. Bring them up to speed by flipping through some of your favorite magazines together or sharing an interesting article on Facebook. They’ll be glad you did—and might even be fascinated with how things have changed.

Be gracious
Whether Grandma is watching your baby full-time or on the occasional date night, she’s making your life easier and forming a meaningful bond with your little one. And the more gracious you are, the more she’ll be willing to lend an ear to any concerns you have. Show that you’re grateful by going the distance every now and again—it could be as small as having your child make a card, or taking them out for a thank you lunch.

Remember, you’re in charge
Your number one priority is keeping your child safe. So regardless of who disagrees, it’s still your job to set the rules. If you’re worried about hurting the grandparents, reassure them that it’s not anything personal, and that you just want to give your baby the healthiest start possible. That’s something everyone can agree on.

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