Are grandparents' well-meaning but outdated parenting beliefs placing kids at risk?

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These days, for many busy mums and dads, grandparents play a huge role in caring for their grandkids. Along with the hugs and kisses and (often) forbidden treats, they provide invaluable support when it comes to juggling work and life and everything in between.

But could they inadvertently be placing their little loves at risk?

A new study suggests that while it's natural to turn to our own parents for advice as we try to figure out this whole parenthood thing, many grandparents hold outdated - and sometimes dangerous - ideas around parenting.  And many may need a refresher to ensure their grandchildren's safety.

In research presented to the 2017 Pediatric Academics Societies meeting last week, Dr Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical, shared the results of a survey he and his colleagues conducted on 636 grandparents in the US.

The team found that:

  • 25 per cent of grandparents were not aware that infants should be placed to sleep on their backs and not on their stomach or sides, putting them at risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • 68 per cent of grandparents did not know that wounds should be covered with a bandage in order to heal properly
  • 44 per cent (incorrectly) agreed that ice baths are a good way to bring down a very high fever.

"Many thought that an ice bath can bring down a very high fever," Dr Adesman told CNN. "Sure, it might sound logical, but it's dangerous to ever put a child into cold water, because you can drop down the body temperature too much."

On the upside, however, most knew that butter was not an effective remedy for mild burns.

According to Dr Adesman, the study highlights the need to ensure pediatricians and parents "not make the mistake of taking for granted that because these grandparents have raised children already, they have the wisdom of the ages."

So while it might not be easy telling our parents what not to do (no brandy for colic, for example!), given how quickly advice and parenting practices change, often in line with new research, the study is a good reminder that grandparents need to stay informed, too.

Further advice and resources for grandparents can be found at Raising Children.