Print this article

Many things have changed since you were a parent of young children. With years of scientific research and development behind us, we now know so much more about how children grow and develop. 

It can be helpful for grandparents to be aware of what parents are learning about growth and development, sleep and feeding, and about expectations for parenting. 

Your adult children may parent completely differently to you, but you still have lots to offer from your personal parenting experience. You can be more supportive if you are “up to date “ with modern understandings and expectations. 

Some areas that might be worth checking out

Brain development and the importance of the early years

We have always known that caring for young children and providing lots of love  has been important. Now, scientists and researchers have found out much more about how what happens in a child’s first few years shapes their health and wellbeing for the rest of their lives. 

The science of sleep and what to expect

Where once we trained children to sleep and left them to cry, now we know more about: 

  • the need for strong attachment, developed by responding appropriately to your child and avoiding distress, especially in young babies 
  • sleep cycles and how children settle themselves and how to set up environments and patterns for children that help then settle to sleep. 
  • realistic sleep expectations and understanding that children grow and practice new skills while they are sleeping  
Breastfeeding and diet for babies and young children

Although breastfeeding has declined we still know that feeding babies breastmilk until 12 months is highly recommended and provides the best start in life. Supporting and encouraging breastfeeding where you can, will be a great contribution to your grandchildren.  

Solids are introduced when children are ready, usually between 5 and 7 months. There are also there are many great ideas and resources available to help parents introduce healthy eating. 

Being role models for healthy eating and eating together as a family are things grandparents can easily help with.  

Screens and technology

Even babies can now be bombarded with technology in the form of mobile phones and other devices 

In the first two years too much screen time can actually be harmful to development. Throughout childhood parents are faced with choices and issues about what information and activities their children should access. 

Working on alternate play activities when you are with your young grandchildren like walks, singing, games and puzzles, that perhaps parents struggle to find time as much time for, can help limit these screen based activities. 

Play and learning

We know that babies start to learn in the womb and that they learn through the senses. All the simple things like peek a boo, reading books and singing rhymes help them develop language.  

Outside play and natural environments are still great for kids, so visits to the beach, the playground or gardening with grandparents are great options. There are some exciting playgrounds to discover in most towns and cities. 

Work and family

How families share care of their children has also changed. The use of childcare helps mothers return to work and modern partners often adjust work hours to suit family needs.  

Many grandparents who help care for grandchildren may be unfamiliar with parental leave provisions and child care options. If you can offer support, talk with the parents about how best you can help.  

Guiding children’s behaviour

Working to help parents guide their growing children by using boundaries, directions and guidance that is similar to their parents can help children develop confidence and avoid tensions.  

There will be special treats and things that grandparents can always offer, celebrate these and avoid keeping these a secret from parents.  

Want to know more?

Grandparents in WA can also use Ngala Parenting Line – or look for a helpline in in your state 

Natureplay WA website 

Beyondblue – healthy families  

The Raising Children Network – Grandparents and kinship carers