Heartland Human Services

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

By Brett Vacek

In the past decade, there has been a 40% increase in the amount of children (less than 18 years old) living in a household governed by a grandparent (Storm & Storm, 2011).  A new set of challenges besets this generation of grandparents raising grandchildren.  With the advent of technology, including social media and the accessibility of an insurmountable amount of information at the click of a button, there is reason to be of some concern.  Currently, 59% of seniors report using the Internet, but only 27% uses social networking sites (Pew Research Center, 2014).  This is alarming considering the amount of children (younger than 18 years old) who are using these sites. 
            Additionally, when these grandparents were parents the culture was vastly different.  Grandparents may now feel like they must give up their “freedom” to care for a child after raising one already.  This new responsibility now brings with it absorption of time, energy, and finances which can cause considerable stress (Schaie & Uhlenberg, 2007).  This child may also be more difficult to rear than their children were.  They may bring forth problems that they have no idea how to manage or discipline.  Issues such as these require new parenting skills.  Social services are available to grandparents in these types of situations in the form of federal grants or free meals at school. 
            What is easiest to overlook when caring for a grandchild is the grandparent’s health.  Maintaining a schedule that includes relaxation, physical fitness, and separation from the grandchild is important.  Websites such as (http:// chhs.gsu.edu/nationalcenter) and (http://usa.gov/Topics/Grandparents.shtml) can also provide information on how best to handle the situation.  Centers such as the National Center for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren can also serve to inform and direct grandparents on a multitude of topics.  Despite needing time to rest and relax, grandparents must assume the caretaker role.  The more time spent interacting with the child the better.  This does not mean sitting in front of the television not talking.  What this means is interacting with one another in order to teach the child important interpersonal lessons. 
            Grandparents are in need of education to ensure that the child is maturating in a healthy manner.  Education is also beneficial for the grandparents, too, due to the pressures that raising a child bring forth.  Seeking advice from a professional, such as a counselor, is not shameful.  It can actually bring relief and serenity to a chaotic situation.  If you are a grandparent raising a grandchild and you wish to share your struggles and gain confidence contact Heartland Human Services at 217-347-7179. 

 

Pew Research Center, April 2014, “Older Adults and Technology Use” Available at:
http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/04/03/older-adults-and-technology-use/

Schaie, K., & Uhlenberg, P. (2007). Social structures: Demographic changes and the
well-being of older persons. New York, NY: Springer.

Storm, P. S. & Storm, R. D. (2011).  Grandparent education: Raising Grandchildren. 
Educational Gerontology, 37, 910-923.   

Psychologists advise those who have feelings of depression lasting more than two weeks to seek professional advice.  If you or a loved one are experiencing  any symptoms of depression, contact Heartland Human Services at 217-347-7179 or take a free screening at www.heartlandhs.org