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Do Grandparents Childmind Their Grandchildren?

The school summer holidays here in Ireland are up to 50% longer than the school holidays in the UK.  Children in Welsh, English, Scottish and Northern Ireland state schools get 6 weeks for their summer holidays. Primary school children here get 8 or 9 weeks (depending on whether the school took a half term during the summer term) and secondary school children get 11 or 12 weeks. It’s one thing to keep children occupied for that length of time but it’s quite another to juggle child care and work, not to mention ferrying them to and fro holiday activity camps which seem to run from 10 am to 2 pm or 4pm, times that don’t necessary suit someone in 9-5 employment.

How do parents manage if they are working full time and have school going children on long holidays? Many turn to grandparents to look after them – to drop them and collect them from activity camps, to look after them for the whole day or if they live far away, to take them for a fortnight’s holiday at their house. With the squeeze in the economy and people less able to afford multiple camps for the children, the role of grandparents as childminders has become even more important.

Grandparents aren’t being used a convenient childminding solution though, many see childminding as a great way to spend time on their own with their grandchildren. Many feel they do a better job caring for grandchildren than they did with their own children and perhaps they enjoy it more too as they get a break from it. According to an Australian study, most grandparents caring for their grandchildren do so for less than an average of ten hours a week and then they thoroughly enjoy it. Above that, and they can feel it is too much – from an energy, fitness and enjoyment point of view as they miss out on their own fun and leisure if spending too much time looking after young children.

Grandchildren enjoy spending time with their grandparents too, listening to stories, playing at shop, learning how to bake, helping out in the garden, having one-to-one attention, being read to, being brought out for walks. It can be a win-win situation if parents, children and grandparents are all happy.

If you are a parent, do you ask your parents to help out with the childminding during the long summer holidays? As a grandparent, do you really enjoy the extra time spent with the children or find it a tie?

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