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Classes bring new grandparents up to speed

Consumer Reports News: October 14, 2011 03:53 PM

Becoming a new grandparent is an exciting prospect, but also a potentially daunting one. With new products on the market that didn’t exist when their own children were small, coupled with new thinking about the best and safest way to handle babies, many prospective and new grandparents can feel anxious about their skills.

Not to worry. In many communities around the country hospitals offer classes to give grandparents practical information along with emotional reassurance about their new role.

“We kept hearing about discord in families,” said Nancy Sanchez, Community Relations Manager at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, in Palo Alto, CA, where grandparenting classes have been offered for the past five years. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful to update the grandparents?’”

As a prenatal educator and marriage/family therapist, Sanchez was poised to develop an appropriate, useful curriculum for grandparents. The two-and-a-half hour class encompasses such topics as recent obstetric and pediatric guidelines about labor, nursing, nutrition, swaddling, and sleeping; finding the right high chairs, strollers, cribs and other products, and emphasizes the importance of properly installing a car seat, among other safety concerns. These classes are often coordinated with separate infant-child CPR training sessions, which many grandparents also take, said Sanchez. The hospital also offers grandparents access to its free car-seat fitting station.

For Ann Stark of Los Altos Hills, CA, who became a new grandmother last spring, taking the grandparent class was invaluable. “I saw how many things I had forgotten,” said Stark, who noticed the class’s emphasis on safety and “differences in child-rearing,” like “all the different rules,” such as “having the baby sleep on his back. It’s a different world now.”

Stark added that the class emphasized “having your car seat installation reviewed by a professional, the different kinds of diapers and how important the strollers are now.”

It probably helps that the course also covers the emotional terrain of becoming a grandparent and managing the new relationship with one’s children.

“Their role is not the parent of this new baby,” said Sanchez. “They have to let go. Grandparenting is being there in the background, supporting the new parents.”

That’s a lesson Stark and her husband took seriously.

“It’s their baby,” she said. “Unless they ask for advice, don’t give it.”

See our buying advice for high chairs, strollers, cribs, car seats and many other products
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Merri Rosenberg

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