More than ever, we appreciate the grandparents

Andy and Maite Canizares, of Gordon, look after granddaughter Sofia after school three days a week. Picture: Keegan Carroll
Andy and Maite Canizares, of Gordon, look after granddaughter Sofia after school three days a week. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Early childhood expert Dr Jane Williams, who is the research and education general manager for GymbaROO and KindyROO, has co-authored Grandparenting Grandchildren, billed as the first guide of its kind, written specifically for grandparents.

Isn't grandparenting inherent? Dr Williams says, yes and no. And, if nothing else, things have changed. Grandparents are increasingly caring for their children, often all day, not just slipping them a cheeky $5 note from up their sleeve during occasional pop-ins, served with cake and tea.

As people are living longer and grandparents are remaining vital and energetic for longer they are being called on more and more to care for their grandchildren, especially when many families have mum and dad working to meet the mortgage repayments and all the other expenses.

Childcare expert and author Dr Jane Williams. Picture: Supplied

Childcare expert and author Dr Jane Williams. Picture: Supplied

"I think the trend is really escalating," Dr Williams said.

"Having worked at GymbaROO for a long time, you know, in the late 1990s, early 2000s, we might have one grandparent a day come along to a class, maybe. Now we see four grandparents a class, regularly.

"We know grandparents are out there really helping and definitely playing a much larger role."

Dr Williams, who wrote the guide with New Zealander Dr Tessa Grigg, said the book covered the key influences on healthy development: movement, music, sleep and food, explaining both how they benefit the brain and how to implement them in a grandchild's life. She said grandparents had the benefit of experience but a refresh could help.

"Absolutely, grandparents have the benefit of having done it before, no doubt," she said.

"But things have changed. There are certain areas that grandparents really need to get up to speed on. I think behaviour management is a really good example of that. There's been a great deal of change in that area.

"When I had children, a smack here or there was quite acceptable. It's not at all any more. So there are strategies for dealing with children when they have emotional meltdowns.

Grandparenting Grandchildren includes ideas for play with young children.

Grandparenting Grandchildren includes ideas for play with young children.

"And I think grandparents need to know what their children know, what we would normally tell parents about what's important in raising children in the first five years."

Dr Williams said it was also important for grandparents to talk to their children and reach a consensus on what was best for their grandchildren.

"Children like consistency. They understand rules and regulations. They like to know what to expect so then it's much easier for them and for whomever is caring for them," she said.

Grandparents also had to understand "screen time was just not on for under-twos" and how important "physical, active play" was for all children, including for their brain development. It's a lot.

"It's hard work looking after toddlers. I do it myself sometimes. But I think grandparents today are a lot younger, a lot fitter and a lot healthier than grandparents of the past," Dr Williams said.

Gordon grandparents Andy, 61, and Maite, 55, Canizares have cared for their granddaughter Sofia Canizares three days a week since she was six months old.

Her parents Caitlin Kelly and Nathan Canizares were very young when they had Sofia. They eventually separated and the grandparents were a godsend.

"The only reason we were able to go back to work and study was because Maite was able to take Sofia those three days because we wouldn't have been able to afford it otherwise," Caitlin said.

"They have also provided Sofia with a lot of stability and continuity. They have a very strong bond."

Originally from Spain, Maite is Abuela and Andy is Abuelo to Sofia, who loves to go for walks in the park with her grandparents.

She also sometimes sleeps over at her grandparents or goes for a weekend with them to the coast.

The Canizares used to have the San Jose furniture store in Fyshwick and Maite remembers she had a cot for Sofia to sleep in when she took her to work.

Sofia is a big part of their lives. Neither Andy nor Maite begrudge their support; it is natural to them.

"I just try to help and I love to be with her," Maite said.

  • Grandparenting Grandchildren (Exisle Publishing) $32.99
This story More than ever, we appreciate the grandparents first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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