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Caregiver watches TV, not kids?
Q: My husband’s aunt watches our two children (ages 3 and 5) four days a week while my husband and I work. I am concerned that she watches too much TV instead of spending time playing with the children or taking them outside for fresh air. Also, she doesn’t watch a lot of children’s shows.

How do I bring this topic up without causing any ruffled feathers or hard feelings to develop between us? We can’t afford to send them to a paying daycare or childcare establishment.
A: I think you are going to have to make some hard choices.

If your aunt doesn’t plan special things to do with the children, and doesn’t have toys and games on hand that are appropriate for them, then they are spending many hours each week in a setting that isn’t going to help them develop as they should. I think you put your finger on the situation when you wrote that your husband’s aunt “watches” your children while you work. Is that what they need—just someone to watch them rather than someone to love and play with and nurture and teach them? And what about her? Unless she has some training or experience in providing what is usually called “family daycare” (that is the technical name for your sort of arrangement), you are entrusting your children to someone who might be very poorly qualified for the work she is doing.

So, unless there is a lot you didn’t tell me about the details of your arrangement with your husband’s aunt, I can well imagine that you would be hesitant to talk to her about how much TV she watches while your children are with her. If you get up your courage to do so and find that she “watches” TV all day and your children “watch” themselves, then I hope you get them into a different arrangement ASAP. Incidentally, your 5-year-old should be eligible for public school kindergarten at no cost to you. Have you investigated that?

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education