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Grandparents as babysitters

Time spent together fosters strong bonds and happy memories

Grandparents as babysitters

For Ondie James, one of the joys of babysitting and co-parenting her grandchildren is that she's an everyday part of their lives.

"They are your legacy - that's what out-weighs everything - the love you have for your grandchildren, being a part of their life, helping to mold them into decent human beings," said James, of Poughkeepsie.

READ MORE: 15 lessons from your grandmother

Like James, many grandparents have a hand in the care of the grandchildren, with about 4,500 of them in the Mid-Hudson Valley responsible for their grandchildren in 2006, according to the NY Courts. Although grandparents caring for their grandchildren isn't new, with changing family dynamics, like single-parenthood, long work hours and longer life expectancies, families are increasingly turning to grandparents for childcare, including people in mid-life through old-age.

James gives 100 percent to her grandchildren's care, but she's also careful to take time for herself and husband.

"Do everything you can for your grandchildren but make it priority to still live your life and enjoy your life," she said. "Circumstances can take over."   

As well, while James and her grandchildren's parents agree on issues involving the kids, overall, she said payment for babysitting and costs involved in the children's care should be addressed.   

"There are so many dynamics that go into it," she said.

READ MORE: Grandma baby-proofs her home

Family resources: Connect with Cornell Cooperative Extension for its Relatives as Parents Program (RAPP), a free community-based offering for families. The program provides peer support groups, resources for non-parent caregivers raising children and more.  

Cornell Cooperative Extension, Orange County

Cornell Cooperative Extension, Dutchess County

Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ulster County
Phone: 845-340-3990

Foster family ties: Studies show an association between social relationships and health. In fact, some grandparents find that caring for their grandchildren provides an emotional bond that leads to greater activity, and healthier eating. Source:

When grandparents babysit keep these points in mind:

• Talk with the grandparent about the job's details, including days and times for babysitting, meals, compensation, discipline, homework and play time.

• If your child needs to be driven from one place to another, be sure his or her grandparent is up to the task and has a car seat for your youngster.

• If the babysitting is at the grandparent's house, see that it's properly safeguarded, including that all medications and poisons are out of reach, stairways are secured, and sharp corners are safeguarded.

• Talk often with the grandparent and your children about how things are going. Make changes, accordingly.

• Remember, having a grandparent as a babysitter is a wonderful way to foster family ties and lasting memories. It also helps keep grandparents active and social, while giving children the opportunity to appreciate older adults.

Karen Maserjian Shan is a writer in the Hudson Valley.