(MS) – The concept of grandparents raising grandchildren is nothing new. For many years, extended families have relied on grandparents helping out with sound advice and childcare assistance. Today it seems the trend continues and may be growing.
As of the latest U.S. Census Bureau report, 2.4 million of the nation’s families are maintained by grandparents who have one or more of their grandchildren living with them – an increase of 400,000 (19 percent) since 1990. These families comprise seven percent of all families with children under 18. Of the children living in a grandparent’s home, 42 percent are white, 36 percent are African American, 17 percent are Hispanic and five percent are Asian or Pacific Islander or American Indian or Alaska Native.
There are a variety of reasons behind the trend of grandparents raising their grandchildren as “kinship caregivers,” as they are sometimes called. The rising divorce rate in this country, which has surpassed the 50 percent mark in recent years, could be a contributing factor. Grandparents may be looked upon for financial support by newly single parents who may have a tough time making ends meet on their own.
Also, with the rising costs of food, healthcare, transportation, and many of life’s other necessities, single parents must work full-time jobs to afford these necessities. Grandparents routinely step up to provide childcare so that their own children can be viable in the workforce.
Other reasons behind the trend could be that the child’s parent (or parents) is stationed away from home in the military, or perhaps a parental death results in grandparents or another relative getting custody of the children.
Grandparents may have mixed emotions about being put in the situation to raise a younger generation of children. Some are off-put by it, seeing it as a chore and something that they shouldn’t be burdened by at this stage in life. The feelings of, “I already raised my kids,” is very common. Other grandparents welcome the situation with open arms. Grandchildren can add a spark back into a lifestyle that may have been growing bleak or stale.
Regardless of how grandparents feel, the end result is that the children must be the priority and deserve the best forms of care. Experts say this can be potentially taxing and stressful to grandparents. No matter how much they love their grandchildren and are willing or even eager to raise them, their lives have changed and with major changes come stress. Stress needs to be addressed so that it doesn’t escalate into bigger physical or mental issues. For grandparents looking for coping devices, consider these tips:
• Always put your own physical and emotional health at the top of the list. Proper exercise, relaxation, a healthy diet, limited alcohol, enjoyable activities and humor are all important to consider.
• Ask for help when it is needed. Realize that you can’t do everything yourself.
• Support is important, so find a local support group, church family, or good friends who understands and can listen to you in an unbiased way.
• Find out what services are available in your community to provide financial help, legal services, and free or low cost counseling.