Tips for the “granny-as-nanny” arrangement:
Discuss the rules and write them down: Parents should make clear what their rules are on feeding, sleeping, television watching, disciplining and gift giving. Grandparents need to respect the rules and accept that they are no longer in charge. Preferably, this talk takes place before the baby is born.
Time commitment and compensation: Grandparents should make clear how much time they are willing to commit to baby-sitting and whether they expect any compensation. Preferably, this talk also takes place before the baby is born.
Wiggle room and humor: While rules and boundaries should be discussed, all generations need a little wiggle room. A cookie here or there or an extra half-hour of television is not the end of the world. The best barometer of whether things are going well is the children. If they are happy, things probably are fine.
Child development books: It can be helpful for grandparents to read the latest in child development research to prepare themselves for their grandparenting assignment. The books can be a refresher on what to expect from children at different stages.
Appointments and conferences: If the grandparents attend parent-teacher conferences and doctor appointments, it can help them better understand what pressures the parents experience, which can improve the grandparent-parent relationship.
Pat on the back: Grandparents should remember that they are also parents and give their own children an occasional pat on the back for a parenting job well done. For their part, parents should remember to thank grandparents for a grandparenting job well done.
Sources: Interviews with Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, author of “The Grandparent Solution: How Parents Can Build a Family Team for Practical, Emotional and Financial Success,” and Amy Goyer, coordinator for AARP’s Grandparent Information Center.