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Planning Retirement Online

Grandparents do make a difference - 13

August 2010



Each month we bring you this special column on grandparenting written by our expert contributor Jeanne Davis.

In this edition Jeanne looks at what can be involved when you agree to help look after your grandchildren.

If you have a subject you would like covered by Jeanne, please email us at:



“Using your parents to help look after your children can be a ‘sweet-and-sour’ experience : ‘sweet’, because it is people that you know and trust who have a vested interest in looking after them (as well as saving you money); and ‘sour’, because family tensions can arise over how you are bringing them up.”

Psychologist Donna Dawson is commenting on a recently completed survey of 1500 parents and parents-to-be, conducted by The property portal wanted to find out more about their on-line customers looking to upgrade, their lifestyles, their needs, their plans for the future.

An interesting trend emerged, one that is mirrored nationally. Eight in ten mums and dads need to use their parents for childcare at least once a week. Using grandparents for childcare was listed as a major consideration in the decision of where to locate. The survey revealed most young families would like the grandparents to live closer and many are prepared to move or encourage their parents to move, with almost three- quarters wanting to live within 20 miles of their parents.

When asked what do you think is the main benefit of using family members for childcare, 25% said free childcare and close to 60% said a loving environment for children. But when asked what do you think is the main drawback of using family members, 70% cited concerns about the generational differences in bringing up their children. The main drawbacks were: “ they have different rules and standards,” “they discipline the children differently,” and “they find it difficult to accept the way we bring up the children.”

Katie, whose parents look after her two children one day a week, says her Dad often lets them watch adult daytime TV rather than CBeebies and she doesn’t approve. Mother of two Claire says that overall, she is happy with the way her Mum helps to bring up her children although she understands that it is very tiring for her and sometimes she will leave them in front of the TV.

Sarah is a single Mum to three-year-old Lydia. She works full time and both her parents and her ex-partner's Mum look after Lydia. As Lydia is the only grandchild for both sides of the family, Sarah worries that the grandparents spoil her –she is young for her year (born on 29th August) and Sarah wants her to practice her reading and writing so that she is not behind when she gets to school, but finds the grandparents would rather play with Lydia than spend time making her learn.

Most of these tensions and disagreements can be resolved. You want the best for your children and so do the grandparents.

Donna Dawson suggests, “To avoid fall-outs, ensure that your parents are aware of your values and routines and keep talking to them about what you are trying to achieve. If you have rules about how much TV or computer time your children should indulge in, or what food or treats (or lack of) they should be given, then do make your parents aware of this. Also, try to concentrate on the positive aspects of the arrangement, and keep your minds open to any suggestions that might be useful – after all, grandparents do have a life-time of experience to draw on.”




Previous articles in the series:


1. Grandparents do make a difference
2. When Grandparents are on duty
3. To Discipline or not
4. The long Distance Grandparent
5. When the parents separate
6. Second time around
7. Who baby-sits?
8. Favouring one grandchild more than the others
9. Should Grandparents who provide child care receive financial assistance
10. A feast for mind and body for you and the grandchildren at half term
11. Jealous grandparents
12. When you agree to help with childcare
13. Parents would like grandparents to live closer



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