Grandparents Who Babysit

By Nora Heston Tarte

Ever feel bad asking your parents to watch the little ones while you and your spouse enjoy a (long-overdue) date night? Or just so you can catch a couple hours of “me time”? It’s time to put the guilt aside. According to recent studies, grandparents who watch their grandchildren on a regular basis are less likely to develop both cognitive and mood disorders. So, think of it this way: by asking, aren’t you doing them a favor?

Striking a balance

Most studies point to a balance: suggesting grandmothers who spend five days or more watching young children have an increased risk for cognitive disorders, however, those who watch them one day each week showed reduced risk for both Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s also suggested that grandparents who watched their grandchildren daily felt taken advantage of.

We aren’t suggesting you ask nana and papa to play full-time caregiver, however, scheduling one day each week for play-dates with grandparents is good for everyone. If you’re hesitant, try asking grandma to watch the kids while you take a weekly class doing something you enjoy.

If grandparents live further away, try to make sleepovers happen every-so-often where you and your spouse can get away while the grandparents take the kids for the night.

Why it Works

Caring for young children is engaging; they often require significant attention and use of mental capabilities (but we don’t have to tell you that), so it’s possible the need to use these functions keeps the brain sharp.

Cognitive disorders weren’t the only risk reduced through quality time with grandchildren. Another study found that caring for grandchildren prevents social isolation, a common problem amongst seniors that can lead to depression and even earlier death, and discourages the onset of mood disorders.

It’s Good for Kids, Too

Intergenerational relationships lend themselves to positive child development. Kids who spend time with their grandparents (or other older adults) exhibit higher levels of social and emotional intelligence. Children learn differently from adults who are not their parents. Not to mention, building strong bonds and memories with family members is good for a child’s psyche, and could boost confidence.

Activities for Grandparents and Kids:

  • Get grandma active by heading to the park
  • Host a tea party using the fine china
  • Flip through old photo albums
  • Read together in a comfy chair
  • Plan an outing to a favorite place
  • Cook together
  • Teach kids a new card game or activity the grandparent enjoys