Rafed English

Advice about feeding grandchildren — OK to speak up?

I'm a relatively new grandma of two granddaughters — one is 18 months old and one is 3 months old. Their mom and dad are juggling careers, keeping up the home front, and creating a wonderful family. We're fortunate to live close to one another and to be able to spend time together.

If you're a grandparent you probably know what I'm going to say next. Mealtimes with the grandchildren are an experience. My oldest granddaughter is at the finger-food stage, which is opening up all kinds of interesting family dynamics for mom and dad, and for grandma and grandpa.

I spent the first part of my career practicing pediatric nutrition and advising parents about the latest tips for nourishing their infants and children. However, this was back when I was single and childless. A number of years have since passed, and I have more experience and expertise.

Yet, it's interesting that now as a grandparent I find myself asking what my role in all of this should be. Here's what I've decided to do, at least for now:

    Let mom and dad be in charge.
    Give advice when asked.
    Offer advice privately when concerned.

This sounds good, but is hard to do. If you're a grandparent, I'm sure that you've been torn between speaking up and holding your tongue.

Here's where I broke my rules — the minute I saw one of my granddaughters pick up an uncut grape. I flew across the room and took charge. I lectured and destroyed that mealtime.

Although I got the message across, I wonder if my family will dare ask for my advice about nutrition for my precious grandchildren. I still think that my commitment to letting parents be in charge and giving advice when asked is good. I'll work harder on offering advice privately when I have a concern.

If you're a grandparent, what are your experiences and suggestions? If you're a parent, what do you say when a grandparent joins your family at the table?

By the way, here are some tips to prevent choking:

    Have preschoolers eat at the table, or at least while sitting down. Don't let them run, walk, play or lie down with food in their mouth.
    Keep a watchful eye on children while they eat.
    Cut food for preschoolers into pieces no larger than one-half inch and teach them to chew their food well.
    Slice hot dogs and sausages lengthwise.
    Cut meat and chicken across the grain into small pieces.
    Slice grapes, cherry tomatoes and other round foods in half.
    Cook carrots or celery sticks until slightly soft, grate them, or cut them into small pieces or thin matchsticks.
    Spread peanut butter thinly on bread or crackers. A thick glob of peanut butter can cause choking.

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