14/04/2014 09:41 BST | Updated 14/06/2014 06:59 BST

Blame Granny

If your child is fat, blame granny (and I'm guessing also granddad!) For years you've dumped them on your aging parents, collected them when it suited you and now you can blame them for making your kids fat.

Research data from the Millennium Cohort Study, University College London which looks at the health of children aged between nine months and three years old, born in the UK between 2000 and 2001 has highlighted that those looked after by grandparents part-time, had a 15% higher risk of being overweight for their age compared with those solely looked after by their parents, while alarmingly those who were cared for by their grandparents full-time, had a 34% increased risk of being overweight. Something's wrong here!

Parenting Duties

What would we do without our children's grandparents? Did you know that almost a whopping 7 million grandparents in the UK regularly look after their grandchildren aged under 16? That means nearly 2 in 3, or 58% of grandparents help out on childcare duties, usually to allow parents to work.

There are so many advantages to having grandparents look after your children:

  • They save working families thousands of pounds a year on costly nursery and child minding fees;
  • Grandparents help parents to stay in work to continue their careers and to notch up pension amounts (you can never start too early);
  • Studies also show grandparents contribute to better adjusted children who have fewer emotional and behavioural problems;
  • It creates additional strong familial bonds with involved;
  • Grandparents can show and teach your children many things that you can not.

What's to Complain About?

The problem is that granny and grandad love to spoil your children. It goes with the territory. Likewise, after raring you and your siblings, they're done with the stressful part of parenting. That's your job. So taking them to McDonalds for a treat, or filling them with foods they want to eat like chips and frozen pizza is part of the game. And you can't really blame them for it! I am not a grandparent yet, but I could imagine how I could be swayed to mimic this behaviour when I am.

The difficulty is when you try and advise your children's grandparents (be they your parents, or your partner's parents) as to your parenting style. It is notoriously difficult to instruct people in this fragile relationship when they are doing you a massive favour and helping out your family immeasurably.

What Can We Do?

Thankfully there is a solution on the horizon, and I'm so glad it's here before I have the pleasure of looking after my own grandchildren.

Luckily for those Irish readers amongst you, grandparents will get the message in Ireland later on in the year through a television campaign. These ads and advice will help inform grandparents about the perils of stuffing their grandchildren with 'bad' food. It's a tricky conversation. Thankfully you don't have to do it.

Safefood Director of Human Health and Nutrition Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan said that during research for their current anti-obesity campaign, which is aimed at encouraging families to eat more healthily and become more active, they found that the 'Granny Factor' was something that was repeatedly raised by parents as a concern in their focus groups. Such a sensitive family situation has been handled by an external authority, thank goodness. Dr Foley - Nolan went on to say "An element of indulgence is reasonable and healthy, but we'd encourage grandparents to also do other things - such as playing games with children, or cooking with them."

And I thought grandparenting was going to be easy!!