Pinoy parents are fortunate that the Filipino culture treasures family ties -- most of us have uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents who are always close by our kids. Lolos and lolas especially are more than happy to lend a helping hand if it means they can spend time with their apo (and it benefits them as well). A recent study shows, however, that our parents may be a little bit out of touch when it comes to child care.
Presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, research from Northwell Health in the U.S. found that many grandparents have been caught unaware that their many of their parenting practices and health beliefs may be “potentially threatening to their grandchildren's safety.”
Led by Dr. Andrew Adesman, a pediatrician at Northwell Health, the study involved gathering data from over 600 grandparents, specifically elderly who are the primary caregiver to their grandchildren. They were given questionnaires so researchers can gain insight into their skills and know-how when it came to caring for children.
One of the items asked was on managing a child’s fever -- 44 percent believed that “ice baths are a good way to bring down a fever.” It has been the practice in the past of many parents, but doctors today advise against it. Cold baths cool the skin too quickly causing a feverish child, who may already have the chills, to shiver, raising his temperature even more. Plus, dunks in ice-cold water can pose a hypothermia risk.
Another fever practice Pinoys should be careful about is adding alcohol to a sick child’s lukewarm sponge bath. According to pediatrician and infectious disease specialist Dr. Carmina Arriola-Delos Reyes, “The alcohol can be absorbed by the body and lead to toxic effects.”
Wrapping up a child in thick clothing with the belief that sweating can lower a fever is also not advisable for young babies. “Bundling a child who is less than 3 months old with too many clothes or blankets can increase the child's temperature, so this isn’t good practice,” said Dr. Arriola-Delos Reyes.
The study found something that’s possibly even more worrying. Nearly a quarter of the grandparents did not know that “infants should be put to sleep on their back, not on their stomach or side.” According to the latest sleep safety guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies should always be put to sleep on their back until they turn 1 year old to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It is the safest sleeping position to avoid the risk of choking and aspiration in infants.
So, how do we gently tell lolos and lolas that they have to abandon some of their child-rearing wisdom -- practices that they may have even used when they were raising you?
“Grandparents are usually set in their ways, and it can be very difficult to ask them to shift their way of thinking,” Ma. Araceli ‘Lala’ Balajadia-Alcala, a clinical psychologist at the Philippine Children's Medical Center, told SmartParenting.com.ph. She recommended a three-step approach when attempting to change the outdated ways of your child’s lolo and lola.
“First, start with something positive. Let them know that you appreciate their help,” said Balajadia-Alcala. Say for instance that lola is looking after your sick child while you’re away at work. You can try starting off with something like, “Thanks, ma. I really appreciate you being here for your apo.”
“Next, give them the information you want them to know without being forceful. Be objective about it,” Balajadia-Alcala recommends. She suggests this script: “You know, the pediatrician said that it’s not good pala to...”
Then, try a collaborative approach. Get the grandparent involved again. Say something like, “What do you think? Let’s try it this time? It may be better.” “This way they’re not on the defensive,” said Balajadia-Alcala.
It can easily feel like we’re under attack when we’re criticized or someone tells us we’re doing something wrong. But, if you say it gently, provide context, and phrase your thoughts properly this doesn’t have to be the case. “Your child’s lolo or lola will feel that they’re still very much important in their apo’s life,” she said.