Grandchildren are a great bonus of growing older. You may have heard the old joke: “If I knew grandchildren were going to be this fun, I would have had them first.” Grandparents and grandchildren alike benefit by this special connection. For example, a study presented last month by the American Sociological Association showed that grandparents and grandchildren who have a close relationship lower the risk of depression for both of them.
Today’s grandparents are serving an ever more important role in the lives of their grandchildren. According to a recent MetLife study, there are more grandparents than ever in the U.S.—and despite the stereotype of Granny sitting on the porch in her rocking chair, today’s grandparents are more actively involved than ever with their grandkids.
Maybe your grandchildren live nearby, and you often fill in as a babysitter. Perhaps they live at a distance, and visits are an eagerly awaited special event. You might even be one of the growing number of seniors who are raising their grandchildren when the children’s parents cannot. No matter what your situation, when grandchildren are in your home, you want them to be safe…and you want to be able to enjoy their visits without worry.
Your concern is justified. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, each year 2.5 million children are seriously injured—some fatally—by hazards in the home. Most of these accidents were preventable! Read on for a quick refresher course in childproofing your home, including some information that may be new to you if it’s been a while since you scrutinized your home for things curious little hands could get into.
A few things to remember:
Child safety precautions may seem more stringent. Health and safety experts continue to refine ideas about keeping children safe. For example, toy safety regulations are much more strict than they used to be, and many experts and young parents are more cautious about the materials from which toys are manufactured. Read labels to be sure toys are safe for the age of the child. And if you’ve saved treasured playthings from when your children were young, or picked up fun-looking items at a garage sale, inspect them carefully to be sure they contain no small parts that could cause choking (smaller than two inches in diameter), sharp edges, or materials that could break into pieces. Some heirloom toys are best kept on display—out of reach.
Outdated safety equipment may be UNsafe. Child safety devices have come a long way. For example, the evolution of the child car seat alone would make quite a story! Remember the pre-seatbelt days when kids crawled all over the back seat during family trips? And those unanchored car seats with a toy steering wheel? Since then, child car seats have been continually improved, so that even a decade-old car seat is probably not consdiered state-of-the art. The same goes for home safety equipment. For example, the common flat plastic outlet protector could fit in a small child’s mouth—a choking hazard. A child’s neck could get caught in the old scissor-style safety gate. Hand-me-down or garage sale equipment may not provide an acceptable degree of protection.
Our homes have changed over the past few decades. The homes of today are likely to have exercise equipment, hot tubs, home offices with computers, and other relatively recent features requiring a new set of precautions. Computers, for example, are often placed on the floor within reach, and monitors and laptops can be pulled down by the cord.
Some grandparents recommend having a designated “kid friendly” section of the house, keeping more dangerous areas locked off (for example, the home gym and garage). Be creative! If the living room has the fewest hazards, make it the playroom while you have visiting little ones.
Be open to suggestions! Don’t get your feelings hurt if your kids correct you. They’re Mom and Dad now, and they’ve probably done plenty of homework about childproofing. Be proud of them.
For More Information
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ consumer site, Healthy Children http://www.healthychildren.org/English/Pages/default.aspx, features home safety tips http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/default.aspx, including “A Message for Grandparents: Keeping Your Grandchild Safe in Your Home” http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/pages/A-Message-for-Grandparents-Keeping-Your-Grandchild-Safe-in-Your-Home.aspx.
Copyright © AgeWise, 2013