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Grandparents as Mom and Dad

How to cope with raising your grandchildren
 

A stroller was positioned next to the minivan’s sliding door. I watched as a silver-haired man swung a toddler from car seat to stroller, heading quickly toward the Epiphany Cathedral, diaper bag in hand. The event would have slipped quickly from memory had I not received a copy of the Catholic newspaper after Mass. The issue included a story by Bishop Nevins (retired, Diocese of Venice) saluting “all grandparents who are ‘alive with love,’” especially grandparents raising their grandchildren. He asked: “What can our society do to be more helpful?”

“Grand” households – In the United States, 4.5 million children reside with grandparents. According to Amy Goyer, coordinator of the AARP Foundation Grandparent Information Center, this number represents a 30 percent increase from the 1990 Census. The National Center on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (Georgia State University) notes the 10 states with the highest number of these households: California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and North Carolina.

An unanticipated role – Grandparents become primary caregivers of their grandchildren for many reasons. Adult children may be abusing drugs or alcohol. Sometimes they are in prison. Grandparents assist young families when military parents are deployed overseas. In some cases, grandchildren are orphaned. Whatever the situation, it is normal for grandparents to grieve the loss of the expected role. Raising grandchildren involves personal sacrifice. A time of life that was to be spent on adult pursuits suddenly becomes a time for supervising homework and giving baths.

Support groups – There might be feelings of guilt about long-ago parenting decisions or anger at the adult child for having been placed in this position. Legal concerns about the grandchildren’s welfare add to the stress. Many individuals find grandparent-support groups useful in order to share these common feelings and learn about available resources. The AARP Web site has links to find these groups and helpful information: www.aarp.org/families/grandparents/. We may discover that Christ uses the hands and hearts of others to answer our prayers.

Society’s help – Under some conditions, grandchildren, and even step-grandchildren, can qualify for Social Security benefits when a grandparent retires (1.800.772.1213).

In 1998, the GrandFamilies House opened in Boston, providing affordable housing in 26 apartments.

Intergenerational safety designs were included, such as ramps and grab bars for grandparents and child-proof outlets for grandchildren. The YWCA offers an on-site preschool and after-school program. Many other states are building similar projects.