Grandparents in Northern Ireland are being “unfairly blamed” for harming children’s health, it has been claimed.
It comes after research was published into the influence grandparents have on children’s lifestyles, suggesting that they can sow the seeds of cancer in later life.
The study – led by Dr Stephanie Chambers, of the University of Glasgow’s Public Health Sciences Unit – suggests they are often inclined to spoil their grandchildren by plying them with treats and overfeeding them. It also found some were smoking in front of their grandchildren and not giving them sufficient exercise.
But News Letter columnist Sandra Chapman feels grandparents are being unduly singled out when it comes to children developing health issues.
Reflecting on her own childhood, she told how both her sets of grandparents had died before she was born, leaving her feeling “deprived” and “terribly envious” of her friends who talked lovingly of being spoiled by their grannies and grandas.
While she readily admits that she is guilty of giving her two grandchildren “things they aren’t allowed at home”, Mrs Chapman added that the they are not exposed to smoking and enjoy lots of outdoor play.
“I waited a long time to be a granny,” she added. “My son was into his 30s before the first came along, and I would have been quite a spoiler except my grandson’s parents were adamant – no spoiling or overindulgence. So I did it surreptitiously.
“By the time my grandaughter came along I was well practised in the art of giving them the things they weren’t allowed at home.
“Of course we should be concerned by overweight children but grandparents are being unfairly blamed. The issues are much wider and extend outside the home.”
Rev Mervyn Gibson, Grand Secretary of the Orange Order, said there are “ways of spoiling your grandchildren” other than plying them with treats.
Rev Gibson’s five grandchildren, all under the age of six, live in England but he regularly visits and helps with child minding duties.
He added: “My daughter is very strict when it comes to what they are allowed to eat.
“While it is the role of grandparents to spoil their grandchildren, it is also important for them to do it in a responsible way and take their lead from the child’s parents.
“We like to spoil our grandchildren with time and by taking them places. I think nowadays people are much more health aware than they were when I was a youngster.”
The University of Glasgow study, published on Tuesday, looked at data from 18 countries, including the UK, US, China and Japan.