When some nannies hear that grandma is coming for a visit, they cringe. We’ve heard all kinds of horror stories about when grandma comes to town. These stories flip a switch in our imagination and a movie reel of scenarios starts playing through our minds. We imagine the worst possible situations and immediately go into panic mode. We stress ourselves out over something that hasn’t even happened yet. But it doesn’t have to play out according to the script. Careful planning and a change of perspective can alter the movie playing in your head. Before you hit the panic button, try some of these “Be Attitudes” instead.
As soon as you get the news that grandma is coming, sit down and have a discussion with the parents. Find out what their expectations are while grandma is in town. Discuss the children’s schedule and which parts of the schedule are not flexible, such as nap times. Find out if there will be periods of time that grandma will have the children all to herself and how that will affect your working schedule, so you can plan accordingly. Ask the parents to speak to grandma ahead of time about house rules, non-flexible schedule times and activities that she may want to do with the children while she’s in town. If you get the chance, sit down with grandma and create a plan that works for both of you during her stay.
Plan for the time that grandma will be visiting to include places to visit, art activities, games, alone time with grandma and always include travel time in the schedule. Discuss the plan with grandma so you will both know what to expect from each other.
Always have an extra set of clothes for each child and depending on the time of your, be prepared with a jacket, swim suit, boots, flip-flops or rain gear. Make sure you pack plenty of snacks and water as anything can happen to delay your plans. Carry a small first aid kit in your backpack or diaper bag. Be sure to include Epi-pens and any other special equipment that may be needed. Have an alternative plan in mind in case the original plans fall through. Bring the camera or use your cell phone so you can capture all the precious moments grandma and the children spend together.
Let the spoiling begin. Grandmas are famous for ‘spoiling’ their grandchildren. They haven’t seen them for awhile so they fell like they must make up for lost time. They shower them with gifts, sometimes they aren’t age-appropriate, and they are very lenient when it comes to following the rules. Almost any activity or outing the children suggest, grandma is opt to say yes. The children are banking on this and they will probably choose activities that you don’t normally allow them to do.
Grandma may also choose to do things with the kids that you may not necessarily like, do it anyway. Grandma wants to create special memories with her grandchildren and the activity she chose is special to her. Come up with a compromise to help her create that magical moment for the kids while keeping them safe.
If grandma wants to feed the children or read their bedtime stories, let her. Be willing to give them the extra 5 minutes that it takes to read “just one more book”. That’s special bonding time.
The weather changes, someone gets sick or grandma changes her mind and wants to do something totally different. Things don’t always go according to plan and sometimes you won’t be privy to the new plan until you show up for work the next day. Don’t get upset because you were not informed ahead of time. Children can sense when you’re stressed and it can cause them to be stressed too which can lead to behavioral issues. Just breathe, count to ten and go with the flow.
Children often act differently when they are only with the nanny than they do when guests are visiting. Children can become more whiney, may cling to whoever lets them have their way, may suddenly decided they don’t like certain foods, and a host of other behaviors may appear. Grandma probably doesn’t respond the way you do. She might ‘suggest’ (tell you) how certain things need to be done, she might create her own rules for the kids and she may take over when she hears a child crying, especially an infant.
Try to remember that the kids are her grandchildren and she only wants what’s best for them. Also, remember that what she feels is best and what you feel is best may differ. If the children are safe and well, don’t stress, just go with it.
Grandma does things according to her knowledge, the way she was raised and the way she raised her own children. We do things according to how we were raised and what we have learned from our own professional development and nanny certifications. Grandma may do things ‘old school’ and we may do them ‘new school’ but that is not a valid reason for us to discount what grandma is saying or doing. If it is not harming the children, be accepting of grandma’s way of doing things. Be willing to have conversations about your differences. You can both learn from each other and create a new-found respect for your differences.
Be A Listener
I know, I know… boring! Don’t automatically turn a blind ear to grandma when she starts telling you stories about mom or dad. If you listen closely, you will find out a great deal of information about the parent and some of the traits you may see in the children. You may also find out that you have some things in common with grandma and through the commonalities the two of you can form a bond.
You are more familiar with the kids’ temperament so help grandma by making suggestions according to how you know the kids will respond. Younger children may see grandma as a ‘stranger’ and want to cling to you. Create environments where you take turns playing with the kids until they become more comfortable with grandma. Once they become comfortable, you can leave the immediate area but never be out of their sight so the kids will feel ‘safe’.
Unless otherwise requested, actively participate in the activities instead of standing off to the side and watching. This time is bond building, creating memories, a show of solidarity with the children, but most of all fun.
Most of the time all it takes is a change of perspective. Simply putting yourself in the other person’s shoes can transform the atmosphere. These small modifications can make a huge difference. So, whether grandma is coming to visit for the first time or the tenth time, flip the script by using some of these “Be Attitudes”.
Angela Johnson Sutherland has worked with children and parents in various ways for over 40 years. She has been a Preschool Teacher, Speech and Motor Clinician, Playgroup Director, Child Development Instructor, Home Daycare Owner, Church Nursery Director, Parenting Coach, and Nanny. Most recently, she has served as a Newborn Care Specialist, Lactation Educator, and New Parent Educator. Angela holds a degree in Early Childhood Education and a certificate in Special Education. She has also studied Business Management Accounting and American Sign Language.