I am Grammy to seven beautiful children, ages thirteen years to three months. I know many of our readers are grandparents, too, and have that many or more grandchildren. But all seven of my grands are siblings who belong to my daughter. That means, when we babysit, we have all seven kids at the same time. How do we manage? Very well, actually.
Most of the credit has to go to our daughter and son-in-law, who have raised well-behaved, respectful children. But kids are kids. They can be noisy, irresponsible, and whiny, at least sometimes. And having a lot of kids in a house that is normally quiet and calm brings about quite a change and takes a lot of energy that we’re not used to expending! So here are some tips on grandparenting when your child has a large family.
- Have plenty of healthy snacks on hand. With a lot of kids, someone is always hungry.
- Plan some special activities ahead of time. A new puzzle. Making cookies. A trip to the park to feed the ducks. A walk around the block. It doesn’t have to be flashy. Just something to do.
- Child-proof your home before they arrive to keep stress at a minimum. Put breakables away, use baby gates at stairs, put cleaning supplies and medications out of reach.
- Interact, converse, and play games with them. Actively listen when they talk. Keep it simple. You don’t have to entertain them. Let them entertain themselves, even if it means watching TV, playing video games, or playing outside.
- Let them do for themselves. At home, they pour their own drinks, help each other, clean up after themselves. It’s how large families operate because Mom can’t do it all with that many children. You don’t have to do it all for them either.
- Request their help. Let them unload the dishwasher, fold laundry, sweep the patio, or dust. Our grands love to pick fruit from our trees.
- Tell them they’ll need to wait. Sometimes you’re unavailable to one child because you’re rocking another one to sleep or fixing dinner. Assure them you’ll be with them in a few minutes as soon as you finish what you’re doing. Then be sure you do it.
- Lean into the chaos and laugh. Spills happen. Messes happen. Noise happens. Hand the cleaning towel to whoever made the mess, or better yet, work together to clean up. Start this training of cleaning up after themselves as soon as they can hold a rag and rub it on a spill. Praise the effort, not the result.
- Rely on the older kids. If you’re not sure of the capability of a younger child or you don’t know whose clothes are whose, ask the older children. They know the intricacies of their everyday life and are usually glad to help. They can also be an extra set of hands to hold or corral the little ones when you need it.
- Praise behaviors you want them to repeat. Things like sharing, being kind, cleaning up, helping, reading, or being gentle with a pet, should be acknowledged. Just a simple, “You’re so kind,” or “Fido likes when you are so gentle with him,” or “You’re such a good helper. Thank you!” is all it takes.
Whether you have a few grandkids or a whole gaggle of them, enjoy them as much as you can when they’re with you. They’ll remember your attentiveness and the time you spent together long after they’ve gone home. And speaking of them going home, be sure to allow yourself some time to recover and rest after they leave! It takes a lot of energy to care for so many little people, especially when you’re not used to such constant activity. After they go, it’s time to care for yourself. Rest, enjoy the quiet. Pamper yourself with a nice bath or an quiet evening to read. Whatever says relaxation to you, do it, and reflect on the blessing of grandchildren.