One of the joys of being a grandparent is getting to spoil your grandkids. When they’re little it might be a treat before dinner or letting them stay up a little after their bedtime (so long as no one tells mum or dad).
A recent study found on average, Australian grandparents look after their grandkids for 16 hours per week. This is equivalent to a part-time job and involves a significant amount of financial pressure and personal sacrifice.
Around 75 per cent of grandparents live close to their children so they can help look after them; 42 per cent make travel and holiday sacrifices; and 30 per cent have changed their work arrangements to suit their grandchildren’s needs.
Rose, 70, and Clifford, 71, are happily and comfortably retired and travel a minimum of two times a week to look after their four grandchildren.
“We help out with homework and prepare afternoon snacks for them so that they don’t indulge in junk food,” Rose says. “They play with other children in the neighbourhood once their schoolwork is done and we are here to make sure they do so safely.”
Rose says she has never considered saying ‘no’ but nor does she feel obliged to have to help either.
If you are financially able, the splurges on your grandkids might get bigger as they get older — think school fees, an overseas holiday or even help with purchasing a new car.
While you might be willing to offer your time and your money, and there is obvious gratitude when you do, it’s still important for you to manage the Bank of Grandpa and Grandma so that your family doesn’t see themselves as being entitled and start treating you like and ATM.
Carl, 65, says he needed to have a conversation with his children about the sort of financial help he and his wife could offer.
“When our grandchildren were babies we sat down with our children and told them that we’d like to support their education by contributing to their school fees,” Carl says.
He says it was important to have that conversation face-to-face and be as open as possible because it removed any of the expectation or obligation. However, he understands not all families are in his position.
“We live far away and cannot see our grandchildren on a regular basis, so for us this feels like we are helping,” Carl says. “But regardless of your financial situation or your intent you need to let your kids know where you are coming from.”
In fact, more and more grandparents are providing financial assistance to the youngest members of their families because they are worried about their grandchildren’s future.