According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000, 5.8 million people were living with grandchildren younger than 18 years old. Among these grandparents, 2.4 million were also grandparent caregivers who had primary responsibility for their grandchildren. These numbers are astounding, and I am one of those grandparents.
So, why are there so many grandparents raising grandchildren today? Unfortunately, social problems, economics and parents fighting wars in foreign countries have a lot to do with the growing number of baby boomers and the like, raising their children’s children. The growing number of alcohol and drug-related problems can attribute to many other factors including incarceration, abuse and neglect, mental illness, catastrophic illness and death. The failing economy that has been in the news spotlight for quite some time now, may lead to loss of employment and homelessness.
Grandchildren who are left in the care of their grandparents may exhibit many social problems themselves, causing great stress on the grandparents who are taking care of them. These problems include: anger, hostility, depression, fear and resentment which may lead to involvement with drugs and alcohol, teen pregnancy and gang association.
Grandparents who are doing their best to help their grandchildren may also suffer the effects of the stress which may be compounded by financial difficulties and health problems. The challenges of raising grandchildren may be great; however, these 10 tips may help you in reducing some of the stresses in your situation.
Getting assistance through local, state and government agencies and organizations may help you with food, financial and health care issues, legal assistance and finding support groups.
Relaxation and stress management techniques can help you gain focus and clarity on the issues and concerns in your household. Taking time to breathe properly and maintaining a gratitude journal are two good ways of helping to reduce stress.
Asking questions can help build stronger relationships and reduce the risk of grandchildren getting into trouble. Asking your grandchildren about their favorite things as well as information about their friends can be very beneficial to you and your grandchildren.
Nutrition and wellness is important for all family members in dealing with stress. Nutrition and wellness keeps us healthy in mind, body and soul.
Discipline strategies that incorporate love, positive reinforcement and consequences help build stronger and healthier relationships, and reduce conflicts and misbehavior.
Communicating, coaching, counseling and conflict resolution are options when issues of stress and emotions are creating conflict and mental health concerns, for both grandparents and grandchildren. Understanding when it’s time to ask for help is a key in preventing situations from escalating.
Organization of time and space are necessary with additional family members in the home. Cleaning out excessive household items as well as keeping calendars of activities can help in this area.
Activities are a great way for grandchildren to reduce the stress they are feeling, and help build communication, leadership and socialization skills. Getting them involved in sports or groups such as scouting programs, are excellent ways to promote self-esteem, team-building and social skills.
Children’s temperament is an area all parents and grandparents should be aware of in order to build effective levels of communication and understanding among family members. Learning about your grandchildren’s personality type is very beneficial.
An understanding of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can help explain some of the reactions your grandchildren may be experiencing with their new living arrangements. Understanding the levels can help you relate to their feelings and emotions, and what areas of their lives need to be reinforced.
I hope these 10 tips are helpful and assist you in relieving some of the stress and conflict that comes with being a “second-time-around” parent.
Kay Fontana, “The Grandcoach,” helps baby boomers overcome the challenges of raising grandchildren. She has over 20 years experience teaching, training and mentoring in a variety of industries including public and private education, county 9-1-1 services and emergency medical services. A certified coach, she also holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary/Special Education, a master’s degree in Educational Administration and has completed post-graduate work in Educational Leadership.
Kay is a mother of 3, a grandparent of 7, and is currently helping raise one of her 6 year-old grandsons. Her efforts center on helping grandparents who are raising grandchildren by coaching them in the areas of managing change and transition, reducing stress and conflict, understanding personality types, and achieving goals.