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Making Relative Care Work

For most parents, relative care is the ideal childcare provider because it gives them assurance that their child is in safe hands. However, this arrangement also involves special nurturing. Here are some tips on how to make relative care work and avoid family spats.

Set Ground Rules

Setting expectations from day one will help make the childcare relationship go smoothly. Sure, it is your aunt and she cannot wait to bond with your toddler. But are the two of you in sync? Make sure that your relative is not only aware of your expectations but has also agreed to the requirements of the arrangement. Be clear about how you would like her to handle your toddler. Explain the following issues - your childcare philosophies (discipline, what to do when your toddler cries, throws a tantrum and so on), food (how, when and what you want your toddler to eat), bath time, playtime (activities you want your toddler to be engaged in and day trips), sleep (what time to take naps and how long, bedtime routine) and health and safety issues (allergies, asthma, fever, first-aid, CPR, etc.).

Keep Lines of Communication Open

In order to make your caregiver-parent relationship work, you need to have an open mind. After you have laid down your rules, allow your relative to air out her views, suggestions and concerns. She will look after your little one while you are away so it is best that the two of you understand each other. If she disagrees with your methods, do not lose your temper. Instead, decide on what is really important and consider her opinion. This way, the two of you are able to find common ground.

Also, decide in advance how you will update each other. You can have a quick, casual chat at the end of the day or a weekly or monthly meeting. Reassure your relative that you will always be available in case she needs you.

Show Respect

Never take advantage of your family member. Do not expect her to look after your toddler during holidays, at family events and other functions. Let your relative go back to being an aunt and let her continue her everyday routine. Your relative has her own life, so never demand.

Offer Compensation

Caring for a child is a huge and challenging responsibility. Offer your relative some kind of compensation – monetary or otherwise. Maybe you can decide on a fixed monthly wage. If she refuses to take money, find other ways to repay her like running a few errands for her, volunteering to do the grocery shopping, paying her phone bills, giving her a vacation or giving her gift certificates to her favorite restaurant, salon or spa. Doing these shows her that you are thankful and appreciative of her service which also helps strengthen your relationship with your relative.

Keep Your Cool

Most importantly, do not let any caregiver relationship issues sour your personal bond. In other words, avoid situations that could cause stress between you, your toddler and your relative. After all, in the coming years, your toddler will grow up and your caregiver will be just your relative again.

Having a relative look after your toddler can strengthen your relationship with your relative while your toddler and the family member caring for him develops a close bond. Thus, it is very important that you make this relationship work.

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Top Questions About Relative Care Answered

When looking for a child care provider for your toddler, why not try relative care? For most parents, it is the perfect provider because it gives them security in knowing that their child is in safe hands. To help you better understand how it works, here are the answers to the most asked questions about relative care.

Question # 1: What are the criteria’s of a good relative care provider?

Answer: There are 3 important features every parent must look for – availability, ability and attitude.

  • Availability - Parents who are hard at work are lucky enough to have family members who are willing to look after their toddler. But, relative care goes beyond that. Just like babysitting or nanny care, a relative caregiver needs to be accessible at any time. Meaning, the relative should be open in accommodating the toddler when the parents need her to.
  • Ability - The most important concern in a relative child care set up is the ability of the relative to provide outstanding guardianship. The caregiver needs to be physically, intellectually and psychologically fit to look after the toddler on a daily basis. The relative must also be trustworthy at all times and must have a natural affection towards the toddler. She needs to adapt and follow your parenting and discipline style. No changes must be made without your consent.
  • Attitude - A relative needs to be responsible with your little one’s welfare. If she cancels on days where she is supposed to look after your little one without giving you any valid explanation, then clearly she is not a dependable caregiver. She needs to have an open mind especially when terms of your different parenting techniques. Lastly, even if she is paid less than the standard rate of a trained childcare provider, she must do her work proficiently.

Question # 2: How will you know if your relative is a perfect match for your toddler?

Answer: Even though you already created a bond with each other, it is still important to have a formal conversation with your relative to properly gauge whether or not your relative and your toddler can establish a solid relationship. Sit down and discuss the demands of the job, your expectations as well as your rules and regulations. Ask for her insights and opinions. Discuss with your relative the physical and emotional work involved. Inquire about her childcare style so you can determine whether or not she can provide a secure, fun and nurturing environment for your little one. You know she is the right one when she is open to your ideas and criticisms.

Question # 3: Should you pay for your relative’s services?

Answer: Yes, you need to pay your relative. But if in case she refuses to take the money, then respect her decision. The safest way for you to pay back your relative’s good deed without hurting her ego is by giving her small compensations like a rest day, gift certificates to a spa, beauty salon, clothing store or restaurants. Delivering flowers or gift baskets (grocery items) will also work.

Question # 4: What are the advantages and disadvantages of relative care?



  • You are aware of your relative’s traits and her past.
  • You find someone you can totally trust. Relative care gives you the peace of mind you have longed for. Since she is your own family, you are ensured that your caregiver is truly concerned of your toddler’s happiness, health and welfare.
  • Your toddler can stay at home or in your relative’s home. He is ensured of a comforting and safe atmosphere.
  • The least expensive type of childcare as you can choose to pay for your relative’s services by giving money or compensation’s like a paid vacation, electric bill support and so on.


  • It can be quite difficult to form an employer-employee relationship because of your personal bond.
  • The caregiver can clash with how you raise your toddler especially if she is older than you. She may choose to instil her own discipline style which can only confuse your toddler.
  • Complications can arise over payments for her services.
  • Your toddler may feel more emotionally attached with his caregiver than with his parents.

Question # 5: How do you maintain your personal relationship?

Answer: Just keep things casual. Lay down your rules from the start. Hear out your relative’s opinions and requests. Most importantly, always keep communication lines open.

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Relative Child Care - The Good And The Bad

Choosing the best child care for your toddler is very important since your toddler practically spends most of his day with his caregiver. That is why, most parents turn to relative care. Not only is it practical and convenient but it also provides security.

Relative care is a form of child care provided by a family member – an uncle, aunt, cousin or grandparent. But with all its handiness, one question still remains. Can parents and children truly benefit from it? These pros and cons were gathered to help you decide.

The Positive Side

There Is Security

One of the most essential advantages of relative care is that there is trust between the toddler’s parents and the child care provider. Once you know the provider is your own kin, you no longer have to worry whether or not your toddler is safe and treated well since she has affection towards your toddler and is genuinely concerned with your toddler’s welfare. In short, you get peace of mind which you cannot feel when a babysitter or a nanny is taking care of your little one. You already established a personal relationship with your relative. Therefore, you have a clear idea of your relative’s background – her past, characteristics (both good and bad), personal habits and discipline style (if she has her own children). Plus, you get assurance that the family member will respect and share your way of parenting.

There Is Flexibility

Unplanned meetings, emergencies and other inevitable circumstances are no longer a hassle to you. With relative care, you get to take charge of your time. Schedules are more flexible. Hence, you are able to make requests and be accommodated at any time. Whether you have to work earlier or later than usual, you can be sure your relative is available.

Less Expensive

Another positive benefit relative care brings is that the cost is more affordable than play schools and nanny care. You save time and transportation cost. As compared to other types of child care provider where rates and taxes are skyrocketing, you have the power to negotiate how much you are willing to pay for a relative’s service. You can either offer to pay a small amount of cash or provide some kind of compensation.

Safer Environment      

You no longer have to train your toddler to wake up early to go to his playschool and disrupt his daily routine. Your little one can stay at home or in your relative’s home so you are assured that your toddler is in a safe, comforting and fostering environment.

Stronger Family Bond

Because someone else is caring for your toddler aside from you, your child is able to form a strong bond between his relatives. If your relative has kids of her own, your toddler will have instant playmates. He is exposed to a wider scope of people which is a good exercise in helping him mold his personality.

The Negative Side

Poor Employer-Employee Relationship

Since your toddler’s caregiver is your family, it can be quite difficult to create a strong working rapport especially when you and your toddler’s caregiver are very close. Asking the help of older relatives can also be stressful since they may feel they know better about child care more than you do. This can have a great impact with your toddler’s beliefs and every day routine.

Confuses Your Toddler

Toddlers thrive once consistency is present. Thus, having a relative caring for him in the morning and you in the evening can puzzle your little one. What he was used to before can change if his caregiver alters your parenting style.

Limited Social Interaction

While your toddler can socialize with his cousins, still, it does not substitute the exposure your toddler gets when he is in a day care center. The limited interaction he gets does not help him prepare for school which can cause delays in his development.

Too Much Emotional Attachment

Because your toddler spends most days with his caregiver, it is possible for him to be more affectionate with his caregiver than with his parents particularly if he only gets limited time to bond with you and your husband. This can weaken your parent-child connection especially when your child gets too emotionally involved with his relative.

In a nutshell, relative care is a better childcare choice. As long as you and your caregiver keep communication lines open and retain a good relationship, problems will be kept at bay.

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