Key Takeaways

  • Nearly half the participants in a survey of grandparents caring for young grandchildren reported feeling tension or disagreement with their grandchild’s parents over some aspect of care.

  • Feedback from a pilot program indicates grandparents who participate in child care are grateful for an opportunity to get together with peers and share info on the latest child-rearing strategies.

  • ZERO TO THREE’s Grand Connections workshop series addresses the needs of grandparents caring for grandchildren under five, including planning tips for sharing the care.

This is the second article in a series about Grand Connections, a free program for grandparents created by ZERO TO THREE.

Did you know that one out of four children under the age of five is cared for by a grandparent while parents work or go to school?And, despite overwhelming feelings of love and a willingness to step in and help, nearly half the grandparents in a national survey reported feeling tension or disagreement with their grandchild’s parents over some aspect of child care.2(The parents feel it, too, in similar numbers and on similar topics, like discipline, meals, and screen time.3)

There’s a real opportunity here for organizations who serve older adults sharing the care between generations—to reassure family members that these disagreements are all perfectly normal and talk about ways to reach agreement on the issues that really matter.

That’s one of the reasons we created Grand Connections, a brand new, one-of-its-kind workshop series for this group of grandparents.

We are currently piloting the program at nine sites across the U.S., and our feedback from the field suggests that grandparents have a lot to say, and they’re grateful for the time and space to say it. One thing we’ve learned (so far) is that recruiting grandparents requires some active marketing. This confirms what our research shows: grandparents caring for young grandchildren are often not connected to organizations serving an aging population. Most are fairly young—the average age of a first-time grandparent is 50. Many are still working and leading busy lives. But once they’re in, they’re in. One grandmother In Ohio described her initial reluctance this way: “I didn’t want to do this, my sister kept bugging me, I thought I’d not get anything out of it.” After the program was over, she reported being very glad she joined—and that she learned a lot!

Grand Connections honors the lived experiences of grandparents—hundreds of years of parenting experience in a single group. 

We invite participants to share their own child-rearing strategies and challenges, with the facilitator listening, expanding on grandparent comments, and sharing new research when it’s applicable. In every workshop, we provide hands-on tools to dive in and problem-solve together. For example, our Sharing the Care workshop begins with a prompt asking participants to imagine a friend had been asked to watch their grandchild a few days a week. What topics would they suggest the family discuss before beginning? A follow-up resource includes six major categories for child care planning and discussion, from scheduling to resolving potential disagreements.

For more information about the Grand Connections program, or to get on our mailing list to receive free access to the workshops and materials once they’re available in fall 2021, please email


1. U.S. Census Bureau. 2013. Who’s minding the kids? Child care arrangements: Spring 2011. Found on the Internet at

2. ZERO TO THREE. 2019. The Grand Plan: Executive Summary. Found on the Internet at

3. Science Daily, 17 August 2020. Found on the Internet at