(CMR) Grandparents often advise young parents on how to take care of their children, but while some advice is excellent, others could do more harm than good. Where do you draw the line?
Parents Magazine writer Melissa Willets states that misguided advice isn't always a laughing matter. Studies showed that grandparents (or any caregiver) using outdated health practices can unintentionally put their grandkids in harm's way.
According to Willets, it may be easy to assume that because grandparents have already raised children of their own, they have all the seasoned wisdom they need. But the truth is that there are some areas where even grandparents need to be given an update (or a refresher) on what is safe and what is not.
One of the most frightening examples of grandparents not being aware of the latest health and safety information for kids is that they aren't always aware babies should be put to sleep on their backs, not their bellies, to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), Willets explains.
She further points out that senior investigator Dr. Andrew Adesman found in his study that 44% of the 636 grandparents surveyed believe “ice baths are a good way to bring down a very high fever.” However, ice baths can cause shivering and hypothermia; a lukewarm or cool bath is far safer.
But that doesn't mean that your children's grandparents can't safely care for your kids. Willets says. It's all about access to information, support, and a willingness to learn. Grandparents can quickly get up-to-date when it comes to the latest health and safety information with the right resources, she states.
Willets explains that in some cities, hospitals and other community centers have begun offering caregiving or grandparenting classes. These classes are similar to those offered to new parents, with a focus on providing up-to-date information on health and safety for their target audience.
Your child's pediatrician can also be a source of helpful information for grandparents who wish to take a more active role in child care, she says.
Willets reiterates that with the right approach and attitude, these resources need not feel patronizing to grandparents. It's not that grandparents don't have valuable experience and wisdom to share—it's simply that science has continued to evolve and with it the expert advice, she says.
She also stresses the need to consider what's going on in their lives before accepting (or asking for) help from grandparents. For some families, there isn't a choice, and grandparents are forced through circumstances to step up into a parenting role for their grandchildren—even if they don't have the emotional, mental, financial, or physical support that they may need. And that can spell trouble for the grandparents and the kids.
However, research has shown that having the right support can make a difference.