Grandparents look forward to time spent with grandchildren alone, without a parent. But these visits can be ruined if a child becomes cranky or misbehaves. Without a parent present to diffuse the problem, the solution falls to the grandparent, which can be overwhelming.
Here are some tips for handling a situation, and preventing one from happening in the first place.
Keeping them Happy
Understanding what the child needs is the best way to avoid tears or a tantrum or a bad attitude.
Let the child know the day’s plan. Many children need to mentally prepare for their day and surprises don’t often work out. Warnings that an activity will end soon is a good way to avoid frustration when the fun ends for bath time, for example.
The day shouldn’t be too packed, and make sure there’s enough time factored into the schedule – children take a long time to get ready and rushing can put everyone on edge, including the grandparent.
Have activities planned, but bear in mind the child might not want to do them all. Making sure to have a few ideas ready to go will keep everyone busy.
When they get Upset
Even the best planning and care won’t guarantee a problem-free visit. Gentle discipline or coping strategies can turn things around.
Give them some food. Many times children are just hungry, particularly babies and toddlers who are still developing. It’s a good idea to keep a little food on hand when venturing out of the house.
Go outside or change the topic. The idea is that a new setting or activity can often make frustration go away. Sometimes children just need to run around or do something else.
Put them to work. When children have tasks and responsibilities, like caring for the dog, or measuring sugar for cookies, they feel they have a purpose. If there’s a conflict, offer the child choices for a solution – this will not only maintain control on the grandparent’s end, but it will give the child an element of control as well.
Infants require different tactics when they’re grouchy. Motion calms a fussy baby, as does a soft hum or song. Often simply holding the baby close to the body will soothe. A diaper change may be in order, as well.
Toddlers respond well to both humor and favorite activities such as rereading a book together, or, if acceptable to the parent, rewatching a movie. Parental separation is usually the culprit here, so doing something familiar calms the child.
Discipline. Sometimes a grandparent has to punish, as uncomfortable as it may be. The parent should communicate how they discipline, and the grandparent should use those same methods since the child knows how those punishments work. Alternatively, some good strategies are talking out the problem, giving the child a time out, or taking away a privilege, such as an electronic. Don’t be too extreme, though. The parent should be the true disciplinarian.