Classes Offer Help For Expectant Grandparents

For new or expectant grandparents who may need a refresher about taking care of newborns: You're in luck. Robert Siegel talks to Rosalys Peel of Seattle's Swedish Medical Center about Grandparenting 101.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Those parents out there whose children have left the nest and begun families of their own face a very different kind of challenge: grandparenting. For those of you who haven't changed a diaper since the days of Carter or Reagan, much has changed, as comedian Patton Oswalt explains.

PATTON OSWALT: So my mom visits and baby needs a nap. Put the baby in her bassinet and my mom said, oh, you put her on her back. I was like, yeah. There's a thing now, it's called back to sleep. Put them on their back, it prevents crib deaths. My mom said, you and your brother slept face down every night. You turned out fine.

SIEGEL: To which I'll add, as a grandfather, that was not stand-up comedy, that was documentary. For those new or expectant grandparents who wouldn't mind a little refresher, there are actually grandparenting classes. Rosalys Peel teaches one at Seattle's Swedish Medical Center and she joins me now. Welcome to the program.

ROSALYS PEEL: Thank you. Glad to be here.

SIEGEL: Tell us how much things have really changed. Give us some examples.

PEEL: Well, I think the back to sleep is certainly a good example. Certainly, things have changed in the hospitals for couples when they come and for the grandparents' role in the hospital. Certainly, care for babies has changed a great deal, what you do with babies. We're not using lots of powders and lotions on them like we used to.

SIEGEL: How will they survive?

PEEL: They seem to do very well, very well.

SIEGEL: Now, some of the problems that grandparents have here are logistical. I'll give you two. Diapers and car seats.

PEEL: Yeah.

SIEGEL: What must we know?

PEEL: Well, the car seats are tricky because that's an ever-changing topic and they certainly want to be up-to-date and, you know, check current standards because that changes a great deal.

Diapers, there are so many options, but one that grandparents usually find interesting is that, now, the newborns can even have a diaper that fits underneath the umbilical cord and they even have a little line in the diaper so they can tell if the baby's peed or not, so that usually makes them laugh. It's a little Ph strip and the color changes for them.

SIEGEL: And car seats, you say, we have to keep track of. There is a rule, though, which is that your car is never big enough to put the car seat for a child nowadays.

PEEL: It does seem to keep changing and everybody's swapping cars to make it work and installing them is a little bit tricky, so they usually need to have the parents help them transfer and install it. And some of them are actually getting their car seats to keep in their cars.

SIEGEL: Now, there also are emotional questions, which are, broadly speaking, how do you relate to your grandchildren without wearing out your welcome?

PEEL: Yes. We use some of those standard tips for good relationships. We talk about a gentle start. You know, if you have an issue, you need to start very, very gently with the topic and then another great tip, of course, is to tell them what they're doing right and not be the expert on what they should do.

The new parents today are very, very bright. They have lots of good information they can share with grandparents.

SIEGEL: Have some of your grandparents in the class, in effect, been sentenced to this by their children, by the parents?

PEEL: Yes. They have been instructed to attend the class if you want hands-on with that grandchild. Many of them jokingly say, I need a certificate when I come out of here.

SIEGEL: Of course, another important lesson, I would think, for grandparents is - you can leave. You know, you're not like a parent anymore. You don't have to really stay with that kid.

PEEL: Yes. And, you know, you don't have that ultimate responsibility and you can just love and enjoy them and play with them. And then, at the end of the day, they go back home.

SIEGEL: Yes, it's perfect. So how many grandparents have you flunked from the course in grandparenting?

PEEL: No failures, no failures. They all graduate and get to have babies at the end of the day. Most of them come in, really, very concerned, not wanting to interfere with the new couple. They just want to be up-to-date on the current things and learn how they can do that best.

SIEGEL: Well, that's Rosalys Peel, who teaches a grandparenting class at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. Thanks a lot for talking with us.

PEEL: Thank you.

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