It’s a common conundrum – unhealthy treats for kids are how some grandparents show their love.
Grandparents are incredibly important in children’s lives, as sources of love, attention and time. For many parents, they may also be an essential link in the childcare chain.
But many parents worry about the amounts of sugar that grandparents feed the children.
“My inlaws drink endless cans of soft drink.” says Paul, dad of 9 month old baby Charlie. “I worry that my son will copy this behaviour.”
“I love my mum but I wish she wouldn’t feed our kids so many icecreams and lollies.” explains Sophie, mum to Dylan (8) and Leo (5). “I get that she wants to treat them, but they come home grumpy and irritable and I have to deal with the fallout.”
“My husband’s mum is obsessed with the idea that juice is ‘healthy’ and by choosing water instead we’re making our son sick.” says Michelle, mum to pre-schooler Pierre (4). “Every time he gets a cold she says ‘it’s because his mum won’t let him have juice.’ It’s infuriating!”
Confronting the sugar issue can result in hurt feelings on both sides. Grandparents feel criticised, or that parents are being precious. Parents feel disregarded and worried about their kids’ health.
Generational, cultural or class issues can rear their heads too, with some sugar disputes showing up as symptoms of much deeper divide.
“To my mum, me worrying about sugar was me rejecting her Italian working class heritage and the role of Nonna that she saw herself in.” says Maria, mum to Max (6) and Arabella (4). “She saw it as me telling her I was better than she was. She already spoke Italian to the kids, but things improved a lot when I showed her how much we value that heritage by enrolling them in Italian Saturday school and suggesting she help out there too.”
Time and time again, studies have shown that what kids really want from adults is their attention and time. Grandparents may feel that they need to ‘bribe’ kids with treats to be sure of their love, but this is absolutely not the case.
Follow these top tips to ensure a sweeter relationship across the generations:
Top tips for managing the Grandparent Sugar Rush
Think of the children. The one thing everyone can agree on is that they want what’s best for the kids – so make it about them. ‘Child obesity is rising and causes terrible health problems. I wouldn’t want that to happen to her.’ is better than 'You never listen to my rules!'
Shift the blame. Grandparents might not respect your authority but a school or doctor may be a different story. ‘The preschool only lets them have water, not juice, so we do that at home too so he isn’t confused.’ ‘His dentist is worried that the enamel on his teeth is thinning, so we need to make sure he’s not exposed to too much sugar.’
Time for a change. Help grandparents understand that the real treat is their time and attention. ‘He just loves going for a walk with Grandma.’ or ‘What she really loves is kicking the footy in the park with her uncles and aunts.’
A little goes a long way. Help grandparents understand about the 6 teaspoon a day suggested limit from the World Health Organisation. One lolly might not do much harm but a sustained pattern of overconsumption can cause lifelong problems for children.