To Grandmother’s House We Go
Molly Barrow, Ph.D.
Grandparents may have all the right
intentions; however, the arrival of a toddler to their home can be
overwhelming. Here are ten tips to help smooth the transition.
1. Forget Clean:
Forego a straight or clean home. A toddler
is not capable of adjusting to a new environment and transferring
their skills as easily as an older child. He or she might be neat at
home but find grandma’s house confusing. Ignore the mess, otherwise
you will scold and nag throughout the visit. That’s not how you
want to be remembered. Use a broom to push clutter out of the walk
way to keep the house safe from falls. Clean up messy spills. If
your toddler enjoys picking up you can sing together while you pick
up the Lincoln Logs. Otherwise, let Mom and Dad teach their child to
be neat, later. When the precious energy cyclone has gone back home,
then you can clean in the silence to your hearts content.
2. Delegate Shifts:
Grandma, you are out of practice and you
get tired more easily. Take turns with Grandpa and older children so
that you can lie down in a quiet room and heal your nerve endings.
Even thirty minutes will help you bounce back with a smile. If you
wear yourself out you could resemble a Disney witch instead of a
Norman Rockwell painting of a happy family.
3. Morning Cartoons:
PBS, Sprout and other stations provide a
fun line-up of toddler shows like Curious George, Sesame Street and
Blues Clues. Take advantage of the hypnotic state that the
television creates in their impressionable minds to get yourself to
the bathroom, take a shower and get dressed in shifts with your
spouse. Beware of shouting, high conflict or violent shows on
regular television that may trigger copy cat behavior.
4. Develop A Routine, Any Routine:
Duplicate the toddler’s normal routine
whenever possible. A clever little mind might try to manipulate
their normal rules with new surroundings and the absence of Mom and
Dad. Spanking or yelling at a toddler is useless and only confuses
them more. They want to behave well, and will respond to rewards.
Punishment can create a total meltdown as they do not understand
cause and effect yet, only that you just hurt them. Use praise,
treats and privileges to encourage good behavior. Riding in the car
or at bedtime is a good time to recount all the things the child did
right today, mentally reinforcing good behavior with lavish praise
and appreciation. “Grandma is so proud that you held her hand to
cross the street and helped her by climbing in your car seat. What a
good boy, you are. Thank you.” Ignore the mistakes and most will
just go away.
5. Use The Parks:
Get ye to the parks and playgrounds. Some
cities have indoor museums in case of inclement weather. Keep your
toddler in sight at all times, but do allow them to run, hop and
spin. No one else can keep a toddler quiet or sitting still so why
should you try to force behavior that is impossible at this age?
Most people enjoy toddlers and are very tolerant of their
exuberance. Helpful strangers are still strangers, so be cautious.
6. Naps And Bedtimes:
Earplugs help to soften endless chatter,
furious yells of “I am not tired,” and banging on your furniture.
Some naps go really well and some are caretaker torture. Bedtime is
very scary; do you remember being a child at grandmother’s house
with creeks and howling wind? “I want my Mommy,” comes to mind
rather quickly. Do your best to make bedtime a happy ritual, never a
punishment for misbehavior. Line the bed with stuffed animals, a
sippy cup and a favorite blanket, and then hope for the best. You
probably can plan on a late night the first few times you attempt to
get them to sleep.
Check in the phone book for toddler indoor
play areas. Most require you to remain with the child but amazingly
you can get some work done amid the din and chaos. Sit at a back
table and let your grandchild discover ways to play in a safe and
highly stimulating environment. He or she will fall asleep as soon
as you get back home and you will get a double break.
Sugar lurks in fruit juice, bread and fast
food as well as candy and cereals. If you want to make it a lot
easier on yourself, skip the sugary treats and carry veggies,
protein and whole grains with you. Organic fish and nut oils can
really help enhance a healthy brain and body for you or your
9. Time Out:
The tantrums, yelling and stomping feet
will happen from time to time, usually out of frustration. Help
Grandpa to gain control of his temper and forgive him for losing his
cool. Recognize when you or Grandpa need a time out to recover from
the stress of a toddler who is trying to experience all facets of
life in fifteen minutes. The crushing obligation and responsibility
for the safety of your grandchild is weighty indeed. Your children
trust you with their most precious gift, their child. If you need a
break, take it before you lose your temper and do or say regrettable
things. The toddler may not remember you are being a jerk, but your
10. Toddler Time:
Downshift your hectic life to simplified
tasks. Try to accomplish only the absolute minimum during
babysitting occasions. Float into toddler time, be present with
them. Do not think about the past or plan the future, just be right
now. Have no expectations of getting anything done except keeping
company with your wild and crazy charge. Return the undamaged
toddler to his or her parents and let them worry about teaching
manners or discipline. The kids will scream, “Yes,” the next time
their parents ask, “Do you want to go to stay with Grandma and
Grandpa?” Proudly you will smile at your spouse and whisper,
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