How to help grandparents prepare their home for grandkids who come to stay

grandparents welcoming grandchildren.

Most of us think of grandparents as the special people who spoil the grandkids, fill them full of candy, and then send them home for mommy and daddy to deal with when they are all hyped up on sugar. In our day and age, however, many grandparents don’t have the luxury of being those special people who fill the kids up on treats and then send them home, because thousands of kids have no other home. These are the kids who have come to stay with grandma and grandpa on a permanent basis.

In this post I want to talk about the practical side of preparing the home for the grandkids. Most grandparents know what it’s like for the grandkids to visit, but having them come to live with them is a different story.

How do folks who have lived in a house without kids for years begin to adapt the home environment for children? It takes careful planning and preparation. By using this post, you as church leaders can be ready to help grandparents in their preparation.

Encourage the grandparents

Urge the grandparents to start with a survey of their home. Encourage them to walk around the home looking for safety hazards. Tell them to get down on their knees and look at the home from a child’s height, noting any possible dangers that might be lurking on that level.

Things to looks for

  • Are electrical outlets covered?
  • Are electrical cords out of sight and/or out of reach of little hands?
  • Are there clear pathways to get from one place to another without having to go around something? FYI: Little kids go where things are not. In other words, if they want to get to an object, they will climb over a small shelf or go under a table instead of going around it. So if, for instance, you want to protect a decorative item on a table, make sure the table is not in the center of the path leading to the toy box or television.
  • Are there places a little child could get stuck, such as in small corners or in between a sofa or chair and a table?

Next, give the grandparents the following checklist of things that must be done to accommodate children being in the home 24/7.

Safety checklist

  • Cleaning supplies must be moved out of reach of little hands. This includes those for the  kitchen and bathroom, as well as items used to clean the house and furniture such as furniture polish and window cleaning supplies.
  • Medications—think about putting medications under lock and key. While putting medications up out of reach of younger children is needed, grandparents need to also realize that some tweens and teens are stealing any medication within reach: hormone replacement pills, arthritis meds, antidepressants, sleeping pills, etc.
  • Any poisonous items such as lawn chemicals need to be relocated to a safe place.
  • If guns are in the home, it is a MUST that these be put under lock and key. Store ammunition in a separate location away from the guns.
  • If the home has liquor, it should be put under lock and key.
  • Make sure the home has a fully equipped first-aid kit.
  • Make sure all breakables are put away or stored indefinitely in a safe place.

Adapting the home environment for the kids

While it’s important to make the home safe for the kids, it’s just as important to set up a home that meets the children’s needs and feels kid-friendly.

Recently my eight-year-old grandson came to live with us. While I was prepared in many areas, the one area that I didn’t give a lot of thought to was how our home could be adapted to meet his individual needs. Here are a few ideas to get grandparents on the right track.

  • Child’s own space such as a bedroom or small space he can call his own
  • Storage for clothes
  • Storage or place for all of their personal stuff, such as favorite stuffed animals, bicycles, skateboards, and electronic games
  • Storage for toys and games and other items that will be shared with family members in the home
  • Designated place for backpack and school supplies
  • Lots of recharging devices for all of the electronic gadgets
  • Place for doing homework
  • Computer or electronic tablets where homework and school assignments can be accessed
  • Pantry and refrigerator stocked with healthy snacks, juices, and plenty of water. One important tip: place these items on lower shelves so elementary-age kids and tweens can be self-sufficient in meeting their needs.
  • Small kid-type cups, plates, and glasses (I had forgotten how small kids’ hands are and how they can’t grip the large adult glasses in our home.)

A few more important details

While getting the home ready and making sure kids’ physical needs are met, grandparents must still think about the children’s emotional and spiritual health. Encourage grandparents to have in mind activities they can do with the grandkids that will stimulate emotional and spiritual well-being. Talking and relating to the grandchildren’s daily lives is one of the best ways grandparents can get started meeting a grandchild’s emotional needs.

Conversation starters

Not having lived with young children in a while, grandparents might need to have conversation starters in mind. Here are a few suggestions.

  • How was school today?
  • What was your favorite thing to do at school today?
  • Who did you sit next to in class?
  • Who was your best friend today?
  • Whom did you eat lunch with today?
  • What did you eat for lunch today? Did you like it?
  • Did you have recess? PE? Music? Art? What did you do in PE?
  • What made you laugh today?
  • What made you sad today?
  • What made you mad today? How did you handle your anger?
  • Want to help me make dinner? Mow the yard?

Spiritual health

When the grandkids are in the home, encourage the grandparents to bring the kids to church programs. Or offer to have someone pick up the children and bring them to church.

Inspire the grandparents to read Bible stories to the children or to conduct daily devotions with them. If your denomination or church has specific resources, be sure to share them with the grandparents. Remember, many grandparents have been out of the children’s loop for years and may not be familiar with the resources your church uses.

One resource I found great to use for devotions is Think, Act, Be Like Jesus. It’s ninety devotions that are easy to read and understand. And, of course, remind the grandparents to pray with the grandchildren and to share answers to their own prayers.

While boomers are the new ER for grandkids, churches can be the hospital administrators that help boomer grandparents provide the best home environment possible. Providing a safe home and fun place to live with God-fearing grandparents can go a long way toward ushering the grandkids into the kingdom.

What have you done to help grandparents prepare their personal living space for grandkids to come and live with them?


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