Troubles? You're Not Alone
Kay Mayberry, Family Life Educator
When you took on the responsibility of raising your grandchildren, you also took on some new burdens. Ask most grandparents and they'll say that life changed when they started parenting again.
Here are just some of the challenges that grandparents face when parenting.
- Lifestyle Changes - Maybe your plans for retirement had to be put on hold. Or perhaps your employment situation changed. You might also have experienced a decline in your social life and time with friends. These changes can have both short-term and long-term effects. Make every effort to avoid isolation. Try to maintain your friendships and social contacts even if it's only by phone.
- Money Matters - If you're like many grandparents, you may be on a limited income. It can be hard to come up with the money for your grandchildren's basic expenses. Add to that extras like music lessons, activities, car insurance, sports, clothes or college, and you can quickly become stretched to the limit!
- Housing and Legal Issues - You may suddenly find that your home is not adequate for raising children - due to limited space, the location or the neighborhood. Those who live in senior housing are often forced to move because the presence of children violates the lease agreement. Legal issues regarding custody, guardianship, foster care and adoption can be costly and time consuming. But without legal custody or guardianship, you may have more trouble dealing with other issues like medical insurance, emergency services and school policies.
- Education Challenges - School enrollment, special education needs, homework frustrations and communication with teachers are just some of the challenges grandparents face. One key to a successful school experience is to stay in regular contact with your grandchild's teachers. Share your concerns with teachers and work with them to help the children learn.
- Relationship Problems - When you become a parent again, family relationships change. You don't get to be the "doting grandma" or the "grandpa who spoils the kids." Changes in parenting styles, along with coming and going of the biological parents, can create even more problems. You may even find that your other children become jealous of the time and effort you give to the children you are raising. If you think your parenting skills are a bit rusty, you might check into a parenting class for new methods on helping children develop self-esteem, confidence and responsibility.
- Health Concerns - The stress of caring for grandkids is overwhelming, and it's easy to ignore your own health needs. But without good health it becomes harder, or even impossible, to take care of the children. Regular check-ups, a healthy diet, plenty of sleep and exercise will reduce stress and improve your health.
- There Is Help - Find the help you need to deal with many of these issues. Contact the Illinois Department on Aging at 1-800-252-8966.
Remember, you are truly the silent savior of your grandkids.