In the last 30 years, there has been a significant increase in the number of grandparent-headed families. Census data indicate that in the United States there are approximately 2.4 million grandparents raising 4.5 million children. Some of these grandparents are co-parenting, parallel parenting as well as custodial parenting. Custodial grand parenting is the most detrimental to the child as they experience thoughts and feelings regarding the rejection and loss of their parent. Parallel parenting is when a parent or parents are unable to parent face to face for a period of time. These parents are still involved in the parenting process through written communications and on some occasions through phone calls. Co-parenting is when the grand parents and a parent or parent are actively raising the children in separate homes or in the same home. I do not believe you can live in a grandparent’s home and consider the grandparent anything less than a co-parent. The interactions and reality the the home is the grandparent’s is enough to create a co-parent impression on the child. occurs when a grandparent assumes responsibility for a grandchild because the grandchild’s parents cannot or choose not to care for the child. Some common reasons for grandparents being involved in parenting include lack of financial stability in the family system, divorce; avoiding single parenting, one or both parents experiencing substance abuse struggles, abuse and neglect recovery of parent or child, incarceration of a parent, mental or physical illness, teenage pregnancy, abandonment, divorce, and death. Research indicates that although grandparent-headed families are extremely diverse, they are more likely to be African-American, female-headed, and living in poverty.
Generations United’s National Center on Grandfamilies works to enact policies and promote programs to help grandfamilies address challenges.They report that grand parenting families or grandfamilies are families where grandchildren reside with or without parents and are being raised by grandparents, parents, other extended family members, and adults with whom they have a close family-like relationship such as godparents and close family friends. About 7.8 million children across the country live in households headed by grandparents or other relatives. About 2.7 million grandparents report they are responsible for their grandchildren’s needs. In about a third of these homes neither of the children’s parents are in the home.
Despite facing many barriers, research shows that the children in these types of environments thrive. Caregivers also experience benefits like an increased sense of purpose in life.
Positive ways to develop a healthy family system that includes grand parenting:
•Grandparent is head of household and healthy relational and household boundaries should be agreed upon first thing with parent. Respect of grandparents property and routines as well as flexibility according to needs of everyone should be considered in this process.
• Establish a schedule for family; having a routine to increase security and developmental progression for grandchildren.
• Take care that everyone maintains their physical and mental health. Get regular physicals, exercise, eat right, and get plenty of rest (have down time and bedtimes scheduled).
• Have a social network; stay in contact with friends or a faith community.
• Become educated about parenting and locate available resources.
• Do not talk negatively about grandparent or parents in front of your children instead speak in a manner that builds one another up!
• Allow for the sharing of feelings about the family situation in a planned conversation time.
Children Risk Factors with Custodial Grand parenting:
• They often display developmental, physical, behavioral, academic, and emotional problems after leaving parental family system. Some of these problems include depression, anxiety, ADHD, health problems, learning disabilities, poor school performance, and aggression.
• Grandchildren may also experience feelings of anger, rejection, and guilt. The degree to which grandchildren experience problems varies, although many grandchildren experience multiple problems.
• Relationships among family members can also create stress for grandchildren. Visits from parents can be upsetting, and often leave grandchildren feeling hurt and confused. Due to their age difference, grandchildren may also feel disconnected from their grandparent caregivers. Finally, household rules and expectations can be a sources of tension and conflict.
When Should I Get Help?
Because each family is different, it is difficult to say when a grandparent-headed family should seek help. However, grandparents should seek help if they feel unable to manage their stress, if their stress interferes with their ability to function, or if tension and conflict among family members becomes too difficult to manage. They should also seek help if their grandchildren’s problems become overwhelming.
Some other signs that you or someone you know needs help managing stress include:
• Anger or irritability
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Pulling away from people
• Constant worrying
• Feeling sad all the time
• Problems sleeping (too much or too little)
• Worsening of health problems
• Difficulty concentrating
Where to get help. Visit the resource sites below and on the Resource page on this web site for counseling, support groups and organizations. Getting connected in the community through family oriented activities can help you establish a natural support system which would be the best practice for a healthy grand parenting family system.
AARP Grandparent Information Center: Provides a variety of resources for grandparents and other relatives raising children. Includes a searchable listing of support groups.
Generations United: Offers a variety of information, including state fact sheets, for grandparents and other relatives raising children.
Grandsplace is an online community for grandparents raising grandchildren. Provides resources, message boards, and a chatroom.
Children’s Defense Fund: Information for grandparents and other relatives raising children.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Information and resources to assist grandparent caregivers.
Grandparents is an online resource with a helpful article Grandparent Again: Information and community for grandparents raising grandchildren.
Kinship Information Network