The relationship between a child and his or her grandparents is extremely special. The time they spend together is irreplaceable and creates lasting memories. If you're lucky, your parents or in-laws may offer to babysit, which can be a welcome break-one that should make you feel that your child is in good hands (after all, they raised you!). But you need to make sure they have a home that's as safe as your own for a child, like mine, who is eager to explore this intriguing new territory. Here's how to have safe, enjoyable visits with your folks, from preparing their homes for baby to making the most of their caretaking assistance and participation.
Preparing Proud Grandparents' Homes for Baby
Remember, nobody's home is ready for a baby. If you're expecting your first child, do you feel completely prepared to have a little one running around? Then think of how your parents or in-laws must feel. Their children are grown and married, they've turned that former playroom into a den and now they need to turn it back into a playroom. They have been worrying about you all these years and just when they thought they could breath a sigh of relief, there is something new to worry about (albeit a good kind of worry). And now that you are about to become a parent yourself, you can finally understand how your folks feel. You don't want to worry when your newborn is in their care, so gently advise them of the following to help make each visit loving and secure.
- Make sure your parents know to never allow the baby to sleep in their bed. Plan ahead by providing them with a safe sleep environment such as a bassinet or playard, many of which now come with a bassinet feature. (You'll find some great options right here on Graco's Web site.)
- Do the grandparents have a pet? If so, remind them that pet food and pet toys can be hazardous to a baby. If there is a piece of dog or cat food on the floor a baby could pop it into her mouth and could choke on it since it won't dissolve. Small pet toys can also be choking hazards.
- Your parents may not know that if a child opens all of the drawers of a dresser and then leans onto a drawer (the way a child often will) the whole unit can tip over. You can install a few safety latches to help prevent children from opening all of the drawers when your child is visiting grandma and grandpa's house.
Anticipating Offers of Assistance
I suggest practicing my three "Ps" (patience, prevention and preparation) when you-and your extended family-are expecting a baby. After all, they're going to want to be right there, every step of the way. So how can you make sure you're not tripping over their offers of help? Try these tips to make them feel included:
- Ask for some of your mother or mother-in-law's delicious homemade cooking. As your pregnancy progresses you may not want to spend as much time on your feet in the kitchen. A nice homemade meal is always appreciated, so be sure to let your parents know that. Load up your freezer with things that grandmas love to create.
- Tell your parents about your child's sleep schedule. Some babies have one, some don't. It's a good idea to let them know if there is indeed a fussy time, a sleep time, etc. It will help prevent grandma and grandpa from running around trying to be entertaining and distracting when all your grandchild wants-or needs-is a nap.
- Make a plan with your in-laws or parents for your baby's arrival. There is no one you can count on more than family and you will likely welcome some help. In fact, you may need help just getting home from the hospital. Will you need an extra hand for a few days? I know my parents loved the time with our new arrival and wanted to be those extra pairs of helping hands.
Mom Knows Best-Except When It's Your Mom?
I'm sure you have heard some grandparents say things like, "We just buckled you up in the car. We didn't have car seats and you survived." The fact is, there are more cars on the road and children are riding in them more than ever. There are also many distractions that weren't around when you were growing up and riding in the car, such as cell phones, navigation systems and DVD players. Make sure your mother (and father, of course!) know basic car-seat safety and these other stay-safe tips:
- Give your folks some car-seat basics: Install the car seat in their car for them and show them how to use it. Make sure you follow both the car seat owner's manual and the vehicle owner's manual since their car may be different than yours. They should have it ready in case they need to go somewhere. Take some time with this one-grandparents absolutely need to know how to use the car seat correctly. Be sure they know, for example, that the harness straps on most car seats should be at shoulder level or below for a rear-facing car seat, but always refer to your car seat owner's manual. The harness chest clip should be placed at the same level as a baby's armpit. This keeps the harness straps positioned properly. The harness straps should fit snugly, they shouldn't be twisted and they should lie in a straight line. Heavy clothing on a baby could prevent the harness straps from being snug (something you and your parents will need to worry about in colder weather).
- Juvenile products have changed as well. Old highchairs didn't have harnesses and if they did, it was a lap belt only. We now have 3- and 5-point harnesses in high chairs and strollers and they must be used correctly to insure your child will stay in place. Cribs and playpens/playards are different as well, and correct and safe use is of the utmost importance. Show your parents how these newer products work and make sure you have the owner's manuals handy so that they-and you-can relax and enjoy the visit.
- Make sure your parents have the correct sheet for the sleeping environment they are using. The crib, bassinet or playard each has their own type of sheet and must be used only with that sheet. Each sheet should fit snugly on the mattress so that pulling on a corner can't dislodge it. Make sure that they know not to improvise here: If they don't have a clean baby sheet, or the right size sheet, an adult sheet should never be considered an option because it can present a danger to your baby.
A Special Time for Everyone
When you're expecting, you're not alone. This is among the biggest moments in your parents' lives too. So try to keep that in mind when they make a fuss at times when you'd prefer anything but. And remember that they will provide a great source of comfort and joy-and even much welcome relief-once your little one is on the scene. You can facilitate special times between your children and their grandparents, for years to come.