With our busy lives, finding the right carers for our children is extremely important both to the comfort of our children and ourselves. While there are plenty of care options available, the importance that grandparents can play as caregivers shouldn’t be underestimated.
In a briefing from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, author Gay Ochiltree notes that the role of grandparents has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. Ochiltree says that grandparents now play two main roles in the caregiving of their grandchildren. The first is that they become the major providers of childcare for children under pre-school age when both parents are in the workforce. This can either be full time care, or part time care in conjunction with an early education setting. In many places grandparents also play a role in dropping off and picking grandchildren up from school and childcare and caring for them during school holidays and public holidays.
The second role that grandparents are playing more and more, is taking over full responsibility of their grandchildren as their parents are unable to for a variety of reasons. Again, we see these grandparents playing the role of parents and taking and picking their children up from childcare and school, working around their own schedules.
There is no doubt that most grandparents look forward to the birth of a grandchild, developing relationships, watching them grow and helping out when needed. Some are required to take over the parental role, and some have less contact than they would prefer.
Benefits of Grandparental Caregivers
There are plenty of benefits of grandparents playing a caregiver role for their grandchildren, both for the adult and the child. In an article for PsychCentral, psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker notes some of the benefits as:
- Developing closer relationships with grandchildren. Spending daily life with children allows for the development of the relationship where the grandparent can get to know the child and vice versa. These relationships tend to continue into adulthood for the grandchild.
- Making a difference in the child’s life. This is particularly significant for those children who live with their grandparents full time due to trauma and loss. Having a child who has the feeling of a loving family surrounding them when they are going through a loss is an important way for them to stay connected to the people who knew and loved their parents.
- Providing a purpose. There is no doubt that some grandparents feel lost after they have retired, and providing a caregiver role for their grandchildren, either full time or part time, can assist in providing a new purpose for them.
- Keeping young and active. Many grandparents report that providing care for their grandchildren can help to keep them feeling young and active – attending sporting events, school events, dropping children to childcare – if there is joy to be found, many find that they feel younger as well.
On top of the benefits for children and their grandparents, there are also three main benefits to parents. The first is that their child is left in the care of someone they know and trust. Their child is being dropped off or picked up at school or childcare by someone the child knows and is comfortable with. The second benefit to parents is the monetary saving. While early education facilities are fantastic for giving children a headstart, they can’t always cover the times a parent needs to be at work. Having a grandparent in a caregiver role for even a couple of hours in the morning or night, will save the parents some money that they may otherwise have to spend on a babysitter or on overnight care.
The third benefit is probably the most significant – having additional caregivers for children, allows parents, mainly mothers, to re-enter the workforce when they are ready to. Knowing that if you get caught in traffic or in a later meeting that there is someone available to look after your children can provide peace of mind to parents.
There are of course challenges to grandparents playing a caregiver role, particularly on a more permanent nature, and it is important that grandparents reach out for support for both themselves and the child if required.
At Treasured Tots we believe that grandparents play an extremely important role in the lives of their grandchildren. Whether you help by dropping off or picking up your grandchildren at our early learning centres, or you have full care of your grandchildren, we welcome you into our Treasured Tots family.