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How to Avoid the Babysitting Blues

The role of grandparent is one of the most wonderful parts of life. And, of course, you want time with your grandchildren.

But what about babysitting them? Just how much care do you want to give your precious grandchildren? One hour? Two? A whole day? Every day?

In challenging financial times many families ask grandparents to babysit on a regular basis, either on a weekly basis to help ease the load for working parents, or as often as every working day. That’s a lot of babysitting hours.

Before you agree to care for your grandchildren for even one hour, there are decisions to be made. And it’s best if these decisions are made ahead of time to reduce the chances for misunderstandings. Ask Granny suggests some issues to address before you take on the responsibility of caring for your grandkids.

Pay or No Pay?

Often the reason you’re asked to babysit in the first place, is the hope that you’ll do it for free. That may make sense if it’s once a week or less. But if you’re being asked to care for a child eight hours a day, several days a week, or even full-time, you may want to ask for compensation. And if so, you’ll need to be very clear about the wages. It’s often easier to promise pay and then not be able to afford it if the sitter is Grandma.

The Schedule

You’ll not only want to know ahead of time when you’re scheduled to babysit, but you’ll 

also need to set high expectations for parents to pick up the child or return home at the expected hour. Again, it may be easier to fudge on the times when it’s family. Don’t let that happen or the road ahead may be bumpy.


This is a big one. Who sets the rules when you babysit and how will they be enforced? Many parents are rigid about rules for feeding times, sleep times, television and screen time, snacks, and for older children there may be questions of chores, homework, friends over and so much more.

Respect is an important word in this discussion. Both your respect for the rules your grandchildren are being trained to follow and your family’s respect for you and your role with the grandchildren. It’s a big job caring for youngsters, and you’ll need to think through the rules you are able to enforce and those you can’t.

If you babysit full-time or much of the time, you may need to stick closer to the family rules than if you only watch the children once a month. Parents don’t want their rules undermined, but you need to know they trust you when you provide child care.

Safety issues are very important. You need to follow guidelines for use of car seats, safe toys, babyproofing your home or the space in which you care for the children and all other safety concerns.

Take the time to discuss rules and expectations well before you begin sitting. You’ll avoid a lot of potential unhappiness with clear understandings.

In Case of…

In a perfect world there would be no unhappy surprises in caring for the grandkids. But what if you’re sick, or one of the children is sick? Do you care for them anyway? What if you’re watching the children and their parents are unexpectedly delayed?

What if you decide to go to the zoo? Is the expense of outings or meals on the run yours or the parents? Of course it’s great to be as flexible as possible, but if there is a pattern of behavior that begins to irritate or rub the wrong way, don’t wait to address the problem. A bit of a discussion, even if it’s uncomfortable, is better than a slow-burn that ends up in a break in relationship.

Ultimately we want our time with our grandchildren to be positive and enjoyable. If we choose to take on the added responsibility of caring for them on a regular basis, be sure the ground rules are set in such a way that family relationships stay strong and healthy.

For more information on the pros and cons of babysitting your grandchildren go to:

Pros and Cons

Grandparents’ Mental Health

Grandparents as Babysitters