Ain't Parenting Grand?
Difficult Issues to Deal With continued...
Even in the best circumstances it is not easy for grandparents
to become parents again," says Hollidge. One particularly difficult aspect is
dealing with the legalities.
"Grandparents are always reluctant to enter into formal
arrangements," she says. "In many states it means having to take their own
child to court to have that child declared an unfit parent."
Some states, such as California and Delaware, have passed
education and medical consent laws that allow grandparents who can produce an
affidavit of residence and relationship to enroll grandchildren in school and
sign consents for medical care. But legislation varies widely from state to
state, according to the AARP.
Discovering How Things Have Changed
According to the AARP, the average age of first grandparents --
when their first grandchild is born -- is 47, which is very different from the
image of gray-haired, rocking-chair-bound grandparents in earlier generations,
says Mullane. Nevertheless, she says, even at this relatively young age, "it is
still true that things have changed since these grandparents were first
Pediatricians can help by educating grandparents about some of
those changes, says Andrea McCoy, MD, director of primary care at Temple
University Children's Medical Center, in Philadelphia. For example, the "Back
to Sleep" campaign is a recent effort to prevent sudden infant death syndrome,
or SIDS. Grandparents need to be told that infants must be put to sleep on
their backs, not on their stomachs, says McCoy, advice that runs contrary to
what many of them did with their own children. "But we now know that by putting
the infant on his or her back we reduce the risk of SIDS," she says.
And while many grandparents did use car seats for their
own children, the technology and practice have changed in recent years.
"Grandparents need to know that infants should be in
rear-facing car seats, in the back seat, until they are 1 year old and
20 pounds," says McCoy. Moreover, all children should ride "in the back seat
until they are 12 years old."
Nutrition recommendations have also changed in recent
Many grandparents will recall being urged to "get their babies
on solid food" as soon as possible, says McCoy, but that's stressed less these
days. Since grandparents don't have the option of breast milk, good infant
nutrition means just formula for at least four months, she says. Cereals can be
started thereafter, but the infant should be kept on formula until he or she is
at least a year old, she says.
"Babies should not drink [cow's] milk until they are at least a
year old," says McCoy. When foods are introduced, McCoy says they should be
introduced by giving "the same vegetable or fruit for at least three days. This
helps us identify the foods that may cause an allergic reaction."