More grandparents raising children

Have you given any thought to what kind of grandparent you would like to be one day? Or, if you are a grandparent, is it all you had hoped it would be? When you think of your grandparents, what do you like to recall? What things are important to you about your grandparent-grandchild relationships? Do you know how important is the role of grandparents in the lives of children?

“Millions of grandparents in the United States are solely responsible for the upbringing of their grandchildren,” according to an article at psychologytoday.com. These families are called “skip generation families.” The reasons vary for grandparents becoming the custodial guardians of their grandchildren. It may be because of a parent’s substance abuse problems, parents neglecting or abusing their children, parents serving jail time, or unemployment. The parents don’t seem to be in a good place to be raising their children and families take on the care of the children until the parents are in a better place. It’s a difficult road to travel.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2015, there were 7.3 million grandparents whose grandchildren under age 18 lived with them. That same year, 2.6 million grandparents were responsible for the basic needs of at least one grandchild under the age of 18. Of these caregivers, 1.6 million were grandmothers, 1 million were grandfathers. Many lived below the poverty level. There were 1.5 million grandparents still in the work force and age 60 or older. Many grandparents are disabled. Every day is a struggle with their own health and economic issues, but they keep doing what they can for the well-being of the children, their grandchildren.

Grandparents fill a vital role in the multi-generational family. They have lived through a lot of life experiences and have gained wisdom from those difficult and challenging times. How many grandchildren sit awestruck to listen to Grandpa’s stories of when he was growing up or perk up with interest when Grandma talks about the family tree and the family legends that have been passed down through the generations? They can teach children life skills that are falling by the wayside, “lost arts” like gardening, crocheting, knitting, woodworking, and baking, to name a few. They teach children the value of a sense of humor, how important it is to really listen and to learn from the things they are told. Grandparents love unconditionally and, hopefully, impartially, teaching their grandchildren life coping skills. Grandparents can be very valuable to the well being of the multi-generational family, a solid thread in the family tapestry.

Studies suggest that children who are close to their grandparents are influenced by their elders and when those elders become infirm and require care giving, those grandchildren are better equipped to do what they can for those older persons that they love. The affection they share, the respect and trust that they feel for each other and the deep affection help create coping strategies for the grandchildren to keep going when stress is high and burdens are heavy, advises the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.

Children will be influenced by social institutions like school, church and the society of their community, but the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren are even more influential for the healthy growth and acceptable social behavior of grandchildren. Children learn what they live.

If you are a grandparent and you think, “Now that my children are grown I don’t have to set examples anymore,” you might want to revise your thinking because you have even more reasons to set good examples … each one of your grandchildren.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org.

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