are an important resource for both parents and children. They
routinely provide child care, financial assistance and emotional
support. Occasionally they are called upon to provide much
more including temporary or full time care and responsibility
for their grandchildren.
number of children in the United States live in households
headed by a grandparent. This trend is due to:
numbers of single parent families
high rate of divorce
abuse by parents
or disability of parents
abuse and neglect
of these homes, neither of the child's biological parents
is present. In most cases, children taken care of by grandparents
move in with them as infants or preschoolers and remain with
them for five years or more. These grandparents are a diverse
group ranging in ages from the thirties to the seventies.
Many grandparents are ready to simplify their lives and slow
down. Giving that up and taking over the responsibilities
of being a primary parent again can stir up many feelings
including grief, anger, loss, resentment and possibly guilt.
This transition can be very stressful and the emotional and
financial burdens can be significant. Culture shock at having
to deal with children and adolescents of a different generation
can be great. Grandparent headed households have a significantly
higher poverty rate than other kinds of family units.
in this care taking role underestimate or are unaware of the
added burdens their new role as 'parents' will place upon
them. Grandparents often assume their role will be to nurture
and reward children without having to set limits. When grandparents
serve as parents, however, they must learn to set limits and
establish controls as they did with their own children.
living with grandparents arrive with preexisting problems
or risk factors including abuse, neglect, prenatal exposure
to drugs and alcohol, and loss of parents (death, abandonment
and incarceration). This situation can create risks for both
children and grandparents. Caring for your grandchild can
also be very positive and rewarding. Grandparents bring the
benefit of experience and perspective. They can also provide
important stability, predictability, and be a healthy role
model for their grandchildren.
very important for grandparents to receive support and assistance.
Seeking out other family members, clergy, support groups and
social agencies can be helpful. The Grandparents Information
Center (sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons)
is a good place to get information, referrals and support.
The American Association of Retired Persons website address
is www.aarp.org. Financial
aid may be available especially if the child was abandoned,
neglected or abused. Mental health professionals including
child and adolescent psychiatrists, community mental health
and child welfare agencies and parent-teacher associations
are other important resources for the grandparents.
and adolescent psychiatrists recognize the important role
many grandparents play in raising their grandchildren. The
better grandparents are able to meet their own needs, the
better they can fulfill the demands of parenting.
information see Facts for Families:
#1 Children and Divorce,
#15 The Adopted Child,
#64 Foster Care,
#74 Advocating for Your Child.
See also: Your Child (1998 Harper Collins)/Your
Adolescent (1999 Harper Collins).
#77 Updated 09/00