While historically, grandparents hand over care of children once their own are married and have their own families, today’s economy is forcing many extended families to live under the same roof or combine parenting services.
Almost 5.8 children are living in homes with their grandparents in the United States. Of these, more than 2.5 million grandparents are taking on the responsibility for these children. Often it is because the parents are both working. Sometimes it is because the parents are not emotionally or physically able to care for the kids.
Whatever the reason, this places added stress on elderly grandparents who may be physically challenged themselves. This may put a strain on family relations as well. Here are some helpful hints on creating a secure, warm environment for these children, their parents and grandparents.
· Remember that the parents are the decision-makers when it comes to their children. Respect their wishes.
· Keep the lines of communication open. Even though the parents are the decision-makers, grandparents should voice their opinions on matters where the child may be better off otherwise. For example, if a grandchild shares stories with the grandparent about issues at school, and the child no longer wants to attend after-school care, the grandparent should inform the parents of these problems.
· Don’t rely on grandparents 24/7. They need a break from parenting also. Ultimately, children are the responsibility of the parents, not the grandparents. So let them have time off and go on vacations.
· Keep extensive records on school, health, legal and financial records for the children. Create a binder to hold all this information.
· Strive for consistency. Keep the family on a routine. If everyone knows what to expect, days will go more smoothly. Everyone should know bedtime routines, mealtime routines, etc.
· Make the home safe for everyone. This should include child-proofing the house, and keeping grandparents safe from falls and such. Children’s toys can create a hazard for seniors, who aren’t as stable on their feet as younger adults.
· Everyone should have a sense of privacy. This would be a room of their own, and private spaces for relaxing or having phone conversations.