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When Granny is The Nanny

If you're a grandparent who babysits, these smart strategies will help things go smoothly.

Grandparents are important for lots of reasons, of course, but in many families they play the vital role of providing childcare while moms and dads are at work.

See also: Grandma Babysits, Gets Fired

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 30 percent of preschoolers with working moms receive care from a grandparent. ChildTrends, a research center that studies children, reports that almost half of all grandparents routinely provide some type of child care.

The situation can be ideal: After all, what babysitter could love a child as much as a grandparent?  But these arrangements can be fraught with potential problem as well.  While a paid sitter can quit a job (or be fired) at any time, it's not so easy when it's grandma.

That's why it's essential for all parties to lay out their goals and expectations from the get-go. These tips can make the "granny nanny" arrangement go more smoothly.

Have a frank discussion. Before agreeing to a child care arrangement, set up a time to talk openly about how things will work. Discuss all the details. This may not seem necessary when it's "all in the family," but you will be surprised about some of the things that have to be clarified. Don't make any assumptions.

Put it in writing. There are child care agreement templates you can download with basics, such as the schedule (including drop-off and pick-up times), payment (if that is part of the deal), emergency contact information, nutrition guidelines, activity guidelines, driving and more. Go back and review the agreement at least four times per year to make sure everything is going smoothly.

Communicate openly. Talk about any conflicts, challenges, or disagreements in a matter-of-fact manner. Forget that you are related to one another. Be respectful, honest and diplomatic. But  don't let small things turn into big conflicts. Address issues as they come up.

Check in regularly. Schedule meeting times with the parents — a half hour every month or so. That's right — just as you would a parent-teacher conference. Children’s carea nd growth are very important and serious matters that warrant the time to reflect on progress and behaviors in a deeper conversation. Be sure to discuss the successes (such as what activities work best or  developmental strides) along with the challenges (like potty-trainingor difficult behaviors).

Be open to new ways of thinking. You raised your own kids, so you may consider yourself an expert on how to deal with kids. But your grown child may have her own ideas about issues like discipline, nutrition, sleep habits, and so on.  Remember, you can offer advice and guidance, but the decision on how to care for the child is not yours. Keep in mind that trends about child rearing change over time: What worked for your kids yesteryear may not be what pediatricians recommend today.

Make safety a priority: If you plan to host the children in your home, be sure it is safe and ready for children. If you'll be driving grandchildren in your car, make sure it's in top shape. If you need a car seat, make sure to get the right kind for your grandchildren.

Relish the role. Before you know it, grandchildren will be "too old" for child care, and you'll miss it. Many grandparents graduate into before-and-after schoolcare for kids up to their teenage years. Sometimes teens actually like telling someone about their day, and if parents are still at work, who better than a grandparent to listen?

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