Is babysitting grandchildren healthy?
According to a study reported by Women’s Health Aging Project in Australia, postmenopausal women who watched their grandchildren one day a week had a lower chance of getting Alzheimer’s Disease. However, those who took care of their grandchildren five or more days a week may have a higher risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders. Researchers observed the cognitive function of 180 grandmothers who took care of their grandchildren.
Although this is the first such study done, the results are encouraging. The correlation is unclear, but it is thought that regular social interaction has a positive effect on aging brains. Taking care of your grandchildren is one way to avoid social isolation that leads to so much depression.
In fact, researchers believe that a strong grandparent-grandchild bond has the effect of lowering incidence of depression in both the adult and the child. Good news for those of us who have regular interaction with our grandkids! The Institute on Aging at Boston college reports a study of 376 grandparents and 340 children who were observed for 19 years. Their results showed that the closer the relationship between the two, the less likely either the child or the grandparent was to develop depression.
It is important that the grandparent both give and receive tangible support, though. Those who only received tangible support showed more signs of depression than did those who both gave and received.
Should adult children expect grandparents to take on the roll of babysitter?
Absolutely not. Retirees and other older adults may feel that they want to babysit their grandchildren occasionally or often, but that does not mean that adult children should expect their parents to drop what they’re doing and babysit whenever they are needed.
Grandparents who are retired may want to spend more time with their families, and may look at babysitting as a good way to build bonds with their grandchildren. But they may also have other interests they would like to pursue, and they should be encouraged in those things, too.
In today’s economy, it often takes two paychecks to make ends meet, and having a grandparent watch the children can save a family a lot of money. It’s important to realize that grandparents may resent giving free care to the grandchildren all the time. Even when grandparents gladly take on the roll of full-time babysitter, they are older than they were when their own children were young, and it may be hard for them to keep up with kids all day long.
Most conflicts arise when parents and grandparents have different expectations or different parenting styles. Grandparents need to remember that these children belong to the parents, and respect their wishes. Although tensions may arise, they can usually be resolved if both parties are willing to sit down and have an open, meaningful conversation. No one likes being taken advantage of, and no one likes having their time abused. But open, honest communication can resolve most problems.