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Grandparent on duty — Good Parenting

rsz 1thinkstockphotos 530491170Dear Dr. Debbie,

In anticipation of a scheduled C-section for our second child, we’ve arranged for my dad to come entertain the soon-to-be big brother for two weeks. My husband will take a week off, but with me anticipating at least a couple days in bed, this visit is a huge gift to me. Grandpop has lots of hands-on experience with five other grandchildren close to where he lives and video chats with my two-year-old son at least once a week. Any suggestions to help us all through this adventure?

Very Pregnant

Don’t miss last week’s column How to help a young introvert make friends — Good Parenting

Dear Very Pregnant,

How wonderful that you have such an asset in your parenting support network! Grandpop sounds amply qualified and truly appreciated.

Rules and Routines
Hopefully Grandpop’s arrival is a day or two before the big event so he and your son have time to work through the transition of authority from parents to grandparent. Review, and post for good measure, your son’s approximate daily schedule and whatever house rules need to be reinforced. Since a two-year-old is very much a concrete thinker, it’s best to discuss the rules and routines in his presence. The rules will be more real if he hears you stating them to his temporary caregiver. For example, go over which furniture can be climbed on and which cannot.
The bedtime routine may be something you share with Grandpop – around your recovery and the new baby’s needs. It will be reassuring for your son during this family adjustment to know that you are still part of his day. You can clear up any misperceptions about having enough love for more than one child during his one-on-one time with you. Grandpop may appreciate the rhythm of a daily break, although from your description, he may enjoy this time for some cuddling with the newborn.

Clothes, Food, Toys
Assuming Daddy is on top of laundry and groceries, Grandpop need only concern himself with their whereabouts in the house. Orientation should include the locations of toys, books, and any electronic entertainment your son can or can’t use.

Try to have at least one meal a day with the big brother so he can continue to see you as part of his source of physical nurturing. The most upsetting realization to an older sibling is to see how an infant gets all consuming attention as an answer to urgent and frequent cries of hunger. This happens many times each day in the first six months. Jealousy can be softened with an easy-to-get snack. Grandpop can help establish a ritual of helping your older child get himself something to eat or drink when his appetite is stimulated by the sight of his sibling getting a bottle or breast.

Getting your son out of the house will do everyone some good. Give Grandpop the scoop on walkable destinations – parks, playgrounds, a friend’s house, the library, etc. Provide a list of options for excursions by car, too. It might be easiest to switch the car seat to his car, rather than having him get used to your car while he’s navigating himself around an unfamiliar town.
In the Annapolis area, Chesapeake Children’s Museum  is a popular spot for out-of-town grandparents to engage in play with their young relatives. The hands-on exhibit areas are designed to accommodate all ages and ability levels, with chairs and benches for visitors who aren’t as comfortable getting down to and up from the floor. On Sunday, September 10, 2017 CCM is celebrating Grandparents’ Day with free admission, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., for all grands, and greats and great grands.

Family Bonding
Your family has a precious period of time ahead with new relationships just beginning and long-held relationships, some life-long, forever changed. Every day will be filled with challenges – just to get everyone adequately fed, for example – but also priceless fleeting moments to be treasured forever.

Remind your husband and father to capture some photos, videos, and stories that can be passed down as family history from these two weeks. Your son can look back on the wonderful adventures he shared with Grandpop as well as magical moments when he compared the size of the baby’s hand to his own or when they first locked eyes together. Parents and grandparent alike can marvel at holding the two little siblings at the same time – something that will be impossible within just a few fast-paced years.

Best wishes to your family for a memorable and timely visit from Grandpop, and many more to come.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She has a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long-time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

Click here for more parenting advice by Debbie Wood.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at editor[at]chesapeakefamily.com.

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