Grandparents are more active in their grandchildren’s lives than ever before. Many grandparents are supporting their children by providing childcare, housing, and/or financial support. There are also more grandparents raising their grandchildren full-time now as the primary caregiver. Either situation can present special challenges or concerns for grandparents due to new caregiving roles that the grandparent may not have planned for.
Below is a list of suggestions or considerations from the website, www.childwelfare.gov, that can be helpful:
— Support a child by helping them make the adjustment into their new living situation. You can encourage good feelings and help make the transition to the new home or living arrangements in a number of ways, including setting up daily routines of meals, activities and bed times so children can have predictability in their day.
— Help the child feel they are “home” by providing a place for their belongings and making it a welcoming environment for the child.
— Work on having open communication with your grandchildren by letting them know they can talk to you, openly and honestly.
— Practice positive discipline that emphasizes education, not punishment, and that rewards good behavior with praise.
— Set up a few rules, and explain the rules to the children. Then, enforce them consistently.
— Finding shared activities. Building new relationships can be difficult. Sometimes, it helps to find things that you can do with your grandchildren to nurture your relationship and to make them feel secure and happy in their new home.
— Read. Children love to hear stories, and even older children may surprise you by sitting quietly as you read aloud. Children who see you read have a better chance of becoming readers themselves.
— Get computer savvy. If you don’t have your own computer, use the one at the public library. The library may have classes or other free help for you. You’ll find lots of things that you and your grandchildren can do on the computer, from games to school research.
— Join a group. There are many local support groups for grandparents raising grandchildren, and a number of these groups also provide activities for the children. You might also find welcoming groups at your place of worship or in the local schools or library.
— Take up a sport or other outdoor activity. Children of all ages need to be active. Physical activity may help your grandchildren feel better and develop a healthy lifestyle, and it can be an important stress reliever for you.
— Taking care of yourself. If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and unhappy, you are not going to be able to provide the best care for your grandchildren. It’s important that you take care of yourself and not allow yourself to be overwhelmed by your parental responsibilities. Here are some suggestions for taking care of yourself:
— Find a support group—either a group specifically for grandparents raising grandchildren or some other support group where you can share your challenges with others who will understand.
— Talk to someone. This could be a friend or relative or a professional, such as a counselor, family doctor, or someone at your church or temple. Unburdening yourself can be a stress reliever.
— Take a break. A short time away from your grandchildren may give you some time to relax. Look for a trusted adult who can babysit or take over while you’re out.
— Take a parenting class. A class may help you to feel more comfortable with your status as a caregiver for young children. It will also provide resources in the form of your teacher and the other students in the class.
— Learn to say “no.” You don’t have time to do everything. Learn to make priorities, and eliminate the unnecessary tasks in your life.
There is lots of useful free information for grandparents. Much of it is available on the Internet. If your computer skills are a little rusty, you can find help at your public library.
AARP runs a Grandparent Information Center, where you can sign up for a newsletter, check the message board and search for a local support group The website is www.aarp.org/relationships/grandparenting.
Generations United runs its own National Center on Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children, which offers information and resources that can be found at www.gu.org/Natio991336.aspx.
The University of Wisconsin Extension produced a series of factsheets titled “Through the Eyes of a Child—Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.” More information can be found at www.uwex.edu/relationships.
The University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences has a website that carries links to many factsheets on child development, including easy-to-understand factsheets for grandparents raising grandchildren. The website is www.fcs.uga.edu/extension/cyf_pubs.php.
There is an upcoming conference, Grandparents Raising Granchildren, in Lexington on March 15. The daylong conference will have many topics of interest to individuals raising their grandchildren. For more information, call (859) 257-5582.
The above is an excerpt from Safe Children and Healthy Families are a Shared Responsibility: 2006 Community Resource Packet. The Clark County Health Department supports families through a variety of programs, including WIC, family planning, HANDS, tobacco cessation and school education programs. For more information about any of the programs, call 744-4482, or visit the website at www.clarkhealthdept.org.