Indulgent Grandparents Bad For Grandkids’ Health

Indulgent Grandparents Bad For Grandkids’ Health

Grandparents are famed for their love of spoiling their grandkids.

Many see it as their right. After all, they’ve done the years of parenting; now it’s time for them to sit back and enjoy their grandkids.

But could this indulgence be bad for their grandkids’ health?

Parenting has changed a lot in recent years. Scientific studies have changed our perceptions of many things, including safe sleeping positions, breastfeeding, and weaning.

Many grandparents don’t keep up with the latest research, meaning they can sometimes be guilty of giving outdated advice.

Indulgent Grandparents Bad For Grandkids’ Health

So many grandparents provide regular childcare for their grandkids, it’s time to see whether outdated ideas could be having a negative impact on the next generation.

A new study, published in PLOS One Journal, found grandparents were guilty of overfeeding their grandkids.

The study also found children weren’t getting enough exercise when they were being cared for by grandparents, and some grandparents smoked cigarettes in front of their grandkids.

The research review included 56 studies, involving participants spread across 18 countries. Researchers focused on grandparents who played a significant role in caring for their grandkids.

The study found grandparents had an adverse impact on the health of their grandkids. Many were seen as being misinformed about health, and were found to indulge their grandchildren with sugary foods.

Grandparents Are Meant To Spoil Grandkids

It’s part of the stereotype, isn’t it? Grandparents are famed for providing all the sugary sweets, chocolate and desserts any kid could wish for.

In the past, when children saw their grandparents less frequently, perhaps it wasn’t such a big deal. Today, grandparents play a big role as carers of their grandchildren, and this sugary diet could be bad news.

Grandparents are often used to fill the gaps in childcare arrangements. Childcare can be expensive and grandparents provide a welcome relief in the form of a free alternative. Some parents also feel more comfortable leaving their children with family members rather than in a paid childcare setting.

However, whereas professional childcare settings have strict policies in place to protect the health of the children, grandparents can fall short in this area.

Health Risks

According to the report, many parents felt unable to raise the issue of health with the grandparents, because they were relying on free childcare, and didn’t want to rock the boat.

In cases where grandparents smoked, parents had often asked them to abstain from smoking around the children.

The studies showed these requests were often ignored, leading to parental frustration and worry about the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Obesity and secondhand smoke exposure increase a child’s risk of developing cancer and other health problems in later life. The researchers concluded it was important to help families tackle these intergenerational issues while being sensitive to the tensions that might arise within families.

For example, if grandma is providing three days of free childcare and saving you hundreds of dollars each month, it’s not easy to turn round and criticise the way in which she’s doing it. However, these are important conversations that must be had.

There was not enough information to draw conclusions about alcohol consumption and sun exposure. Sun exposure, in particular, would make for an interesting study because sun safety has changed drastically over recent generations.

Making Positive Changes

It wasn’t all bad news, though. In fact, some grandparents were clearly working with parents to promote a healthy lifestyle, and consciously made healthy choices around their grandkids.

When their grandchildren were born, many grandparents had made major lifestyle changes, such as giving up smoking or at least not smoking indoors.

It can be difficult to criticise somebody who is doing you a favour, especially when you’re so grateful for everything they do for you. And, of course, it can be hard to hear people aren’t happy with what you’re doing, especially when you are doing your very best to care for your grandkids.

So how can you have a productive conversation about these issues?

It’s important to focus on the good as well as the bad. Be clear about how grateful you are, how much the kids love their grandparents, and what a great job they’re doing.

Do you rely on grandparents for regular childcare? If so, don’t be afraid to talk to them about health matters, such as junk food and sugary snacks, exercise and secondhand smoke.

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Fiona Peacock CONTRIBUTOR

Fiona Peacock is a writer, researcher and lover of all things to do with pregnancy, birth and motherhood (apart from the lack of sleep). She is a home birth advocate, passionate about gentle parenting and is also really tired.


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