Out-of-town grandparents: solving the #1 problem of babysitting.

The crucial moment of a babysitting time? Absolutely, it’s the moment when the parents leave.

If tears are going to be shed or the child is going to plead, “I want to go with them!” it’s going to happen at the moment of departure. An upset child is especially stressful for out-of–town grandparents who want every moment of the visit to be wonderful for their grandchildren.

After eight years of being grandparents, happily, our grands are quite comfortable with us and usually we have no problems. We don’t babysit during a visit unless we’re sure the kids are comfortable with us. (Another of my posts on babysitting lists ways to tell if the kids are ready for you to babysit.)

But a big downside of being a miles away grandparent is that we can’t offer consistency for the child, to allow him or her to always be “used to” us babysitting. Plus kids grow and change! Add those hurdles together and …

  • Gabriel, who was fine with you babysitting in January, might not like the idea in July when you’re visiting again.
  • Two-year old Jamar doesn’t realize you’ve always babysat on every visit — to him, it’s a new experience.
  • Four-year old Eleanor who barely nodded when the parents left during your last visit might now wonder if the parents are going to a more fun place than home.

Departure trick — I mean, tip!

If I sense the child won’t like the parent(s) leaving, I always have a special activity planned for the moment of departure to soothe over any misgivings a little one might have.

I’ll say “Mommy and Daddy are going to run some errands, but I thought we could decorate the cupcakes while they are gone. We’ll start after they leave.”

Works like a charm. Pick a show-stopper activity your grandchild likes. My grands are usually pushing Mommy and Daddy out the door so we can get started on our fun! You make “the leaving” something the child wants to happen.

Remember, don’t start the special activity before the parents leave. All bets would be off as the child then has no happy anticipation about them being gone. You make the child want the parents to leave!

When one of the grandkids is in the clinging toddler stage, I have a couple of wrapped presents stashed in my suitcase (small items like stickers or a coloring book) and have been known to bring those out and put on the mantel for the child “to open after Mommy and Daddy leave.” But I use that gift ploy only if I have to. if I sense their might be trouble, usually just the promise of a fun activity has them saying, “Bye Bye, Mommy and Daddy!”

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Do you like babysitting when you’re visiting your grands? Please share any tips you have in the Comments section below.

7 thoughts on “Out-of-town grandparents: solving the #1 problem of babysitting.”

  1. We once had a bad time when our three year old didn’t want his folks to leave. Made me cry! I’m using your trick the next time we visit.

  2. This is not on topic, but I wanted to share I haven’t seen my two grandchildren in Utah since October; we live in Ohio. We had visits planned, and they were to come here. The corona changed those plans. It is not getting better, and Utah is a hot state right now with the virus.

    I miss them so much. We do FaceTime but that is not the same. I feel like crying a lot, aa I don’t know when we will see them.

    I wondered if you have any suggestions for me. I feel blessed to not have the corona virus, and enjoy my grandson that lives close, but I miss the other two so much.

    Thank you for any help you can give.

    • Penny, my heart goes out to you and everyone else who is experiencing pangs of separation. We were coping pretty well with grandkids being far away, weren’t we? Until this new barrier — the Corona virus — was given to us. Now we don’t even have a visit to look forward to.

      Here are a few pieces of advice, since you asked. But trust me, I’m often a weeping grandma, too, so these aren’t miracle cures!
      – I find I do better when I don’t project ahead. As much as I can, I really try not to think to much about when the next visit will be, which is rough for me because I’m a planner. When I find my thought process going in that direction, I force myself back to just thinking about today.
      – It helps me to talk to another grandparent who’s in the same situation. I hope you have a friend or two who also is pining to see her out-of-town grandkids.
      – Video chatting with my four grandkids really helps me. I feel connected to them and I feel I’m keeping our relationships going.
      – When I feeling blue, it helps to take a walk or go for a drive. A change of scenery makes the world seem a bit different.
      – I limit how much of the news I watch or read, especially on a blue day. Someone talking about a vaccine not being ready for a long time makes me so angry. All I want is that vaccine so I can see my grandkids.
      – This sounds silly but I try to think of parents of immigrants back in the olden days. Their adult children set sail on a ship to America and the parents knew they would never see them again. You and I are so much luckier than that.

      Penny, I hope these suggestions might help you a bit here or there. I live in Ohio too … and my grands are in Washington state so you and I have thousands of miles away from our grandkids. This is such a rough time … but it WILL END.Happy days will be ahead and our suffering will be over.

      Thanks for reaching out.


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