"Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go...." is not just a special occasion anymore, but a daily routine for approximately 8% of children living in Kentucky today. Of the nearly 70,000 children living in grandparent or relative headed households, 44% are absent of either parent. Grandparents play an important role in the development of children, but for some it's more than "fun and games". This month on "Its About You", Muhlenberg County Family & Consumer Science Extension Agent Laura Holt, along with the Family Resource Center Coordinator, Sandy Alward, and active grandmother volunteer, Kay Hibbs at the Longest Elementary School in Greenville provide us with insights on the multi roles grandparents play with today's grandchildren and give tips on how to make the relationship beneficial for all.
- For many children in Kentucky, grandparents play a significant role in caring for them. Current economic conditions with associated unemployment problems, substance abuse, inadequate education levels and lack of transportation (especially public transportation) are factors that create the increased level of responsibility for grandparents.
- Grandparents may find it different raising their grandchildren due to the generation gap, their own age and potential health concerns, change in lifestyle, isolation from other family members or other grandchildren as well as financial difficulties. It's important to recognize the challenges so they can be addressed early in the relationship.
- In many situations, grandparents play the roles of protector, role model, teacher, play partner, and caregiver for their grandchildren...moving them from the traditional role to custodial care responsibility. This can be stressful for both, but resources are available.
- Grandparents can seek help and resources from a variety of sources-the school resource center, community services, church/charitable organizations, support groups as well as the county's cooperative extension office.
- The best way for grandparents to strengthen their relationship with their grandchildren is to communicate...at their level! Focus on the positive and become involved in their lives. Grandparents need to be wiling to volunteer at their grandchildren's schools, allow time for them to participate in educational activities of interest, and create the family bond. It's important for grandparents to make time for sharing stories and photos about the family history as they are the connection to keeping the family traditions alive!
- Closer relationships and a sense of self-renewal are some of the benefits grandparents experience when raising their grandchildren. Regardless of how the situation evolved, the opportunity can be of great satisfaction for all. It's about building a strong family unit that will nurture the optimal growth and development of all family members.