Grandparents raising their grandchildren

Here at LifeSpan we have noticed an increase in the numbers of extended family members, namely grandparents, who are raising their grandchildren.  Many grandparents are stepping in to raise their grandchildren because their parents are not able to do so. In fact, the U.S. Census of 2000 found that over 2.4 million grandparents have responsibility for their grandchildren, in Pennsylvania, about 79,000 grandparents are raising their grandchildren. Some 60 percent of grandparents served as caregivers to their grandchildren over a ten-year period, and of that group, a whopping 70 percent offered care for two years or more, according to a new study from the University of Chicago based on a National Institute on Aging survey of more than 13,000 people age 50 and older. Many are serving as part- time babysitters or caregivers to help reduce the financial cost of child care while others have taken on more primary caregiver roles.  We hope to assist you in managing it as best you can. It can present some unique challenges and we have gathered some resources here to guide you through this time.

If you are one of these grandparents, you have made numerous sacrifices in order to provide a better life for your grandchildren. What are some things you can do now to provide the best possible care for your grandchildren while still preserving your own health and well-being?

Making the adjustment. Often, grandparents take on this obligation when the grandchildren’s own parents abandon them or when the children can no longer live with them because of the parent’s mental disorder, substance abuse, or incarceration. Thus, you may have the added burden of caring for children who suffered from abuse or neglect from their own parents. These children may feel insecure and afraid; they may be angry at their situation and even embarrassed by it. It will take time for these children to feel safe and secure. You can encourage these good feelings and ease their adjustment to their new home in a number of ways:

  • Set up a daily routine of mealtimes, bedtime, and other activities so that the children have some predictability in their lives.
  • Help your grandchildren to feel that they are “home” by making room for them and their belongings. Your home needs to be welcoming, safe, and child-friendly.
  • Work on communication skills. Talk to your grandchildren, and make sure that the children know that they can always talk to you.
  • 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.

It will be helpful to seek some support. Local support groups and online resources should be able to offer some additional guidance and support.  The AARP has some nice resources to tap into:

Find some shared activities that you can do together but remember to care for yourself as well.

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