Should Grandparents Help with Child Care for Their Grandchildren?

Grandparent child care can give your children a greater opportunity to get to know your parents.

Not all parents are able to turn to their own parents for help with their children. For those who are fortunate enough to have the option, grandparent child care can have numerous benefits, such as personal familiarity, bonding time, schedule flexibility and (typically) no charge. However, grandparent child care may also have some drawbacks for certain families. Some parents may worry about the blurring of boundaries, differences of opinion and the lack of space from their own parents. Develop a plan that works best for your own family.

Familiarity and Bonding

If you are emotionally close to your parents, allowing them to help care for your own children can feel safe and comforting. Your parents may feel like an extension of you, and you may trust them more than you trust strangers at a day care center or even a nanny with a referral. If your children have a strong relationship with your parents, they're more likely to feel at ease when you're away and may even be excited for the chance to spend quality time with their grandparents. Your parents may already be familiar with your house, your rules, your children's eating habits and other nuances. Many families are geographically spread apart, so families who live close to each other may enjoy taking advantage of this opportunity for creating memories.

Affordability and Flexibility

One of the benefits of asking grandparents to help is that they rarely charge for their services. Today's child care costs can be a tremendous burden on families. According to "The Huffington Post," child care has become the greatest household expense for many families. The yearly cost in some states is more than the annual minimum wage. Grandparents may also have flexible hours vs. a center with specific pick-up and drop-off times. Unlike some nannies, grandparents typically do not have their own small children to schedule around; they are often retired. They may be willing to do small favors, such as picking your children up from school. ABC News reports that the economy has driven many parents to turn to grandparents for help with such tasks.

Lack of Space and Independence

Although grandparents can provide wonderful child care, they are not always the best option for every family. Some parents have stress-filled relationships with their own parents or may simply wish to have space from them. They may not want to see their own parents each day when they get home from work. They may find their parents smothering, bossy, critical or nosy. In this case, grandparent child care may not be the best choice. A couple may not want to feel judged by their parents about how clean or messy their house is, how they are raising their children or what decisions they are making about various issues in their lives. They may wish to maintain boundaries and a certain level of privacy in their home. For such couples, grandparent child care could end up feeling more like a burden than a gift.

Parenting Boundaries and Approaches

Your relationship with your child care provider is a business relationship. Many people do not wish to engage in a business relationship with someone in their own family. They may feel less comfortable stating their needs and telling their own parents how to do things. You may disagree with your parents on basic parenting techniques. If your parents are older, they may not be as physically able or may not know some of the newer parenting or educational philosophies you wish to follow. A study by the UK's Institute of Education found that care provided by qualified staff tends to have more structured curriculum to help a child's cognitive development. Additionally, you may worry that your children will be spoiled if cared for at home by loving but sometimes overly generous grandparents, who fail to follow your discipline strategies.