Thursday 8 December 2016

Your children could put Granny in an early grave

Childcare demands on grandparents are costing them their health, says Sarah Caden, and upsetting the natural order

Sarah Caden

Published 19/04/2015 | 02:30

Childcare demands on grandparents are costing them their health, says Sarah Caden, and upsetting the natural order
Childcare demands on grandparents are costing them their health, says Sarah Caden, and upsetting the natural order

Some years ago, I heard psychologist Maureen Gaffney on the radio talking about grandparents. Her top tip for parents was that they must never speak ill of the grandparents to the children or in their earshot. This, she advised, would upset the delicate equilibrium.

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For one thing, she explained, the children would be horrified, and defensive of their grandparents, whom they cannot be expected to see as their parents see them. But further, it would upset the almost magical relationship children have with their grandparents, traditionally free of the pressures of the parent-child relationship. Traditionally, that is, but not if, as has become the case in Ireland, increasing numbers of grandparents are semi-raising their grandchildren.

Last week, Tilda (The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing in Ireland), based in Trinity College reported that grandparents providing more than 60 hours of childcare per month to their adult children were at greater risk of depression. Sixty hours a month. That's not dangling a babba on your knee and telling them stories about the old days. That's school drop-offs, feeding, naps, school pick-ups and probably homework, too. That's parenting. And that's asking too much.

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