The statistics are startling. In the U.S. alone, more than 4.9 children are being raised by grandparents. Even more alarming, this number has more than doubled in the past 10 years. In her thought-provoking book, The Sacred Work of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, Elaine K. Williams offers tools, suggestions and insights for parenting grandparents and other kinship caregivers.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 9 percent of all children in the U.S. lived with a grandparent in 2009. For grandparents who step into unknown territory to help out and raise their children’s children, this is sacred work indeed.
Despite their deep love and commitment, parenting grandparents face many challenges including the physical, psychological, emotional, economic, social and inter-generational difficulties. Grandparent-headed families need support just as much or more than traditional families. Elaine K. William’s book, The Sacred Work of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, offers guidance, support, understanding and resources to help them in their parental journey.
“Implicit in understanding what it means for grandparents to raise their grandchildren is an appreciation for the cost that this growing trend has on our society, our elders, and, most important, our children,” explains Williams. Children not being raised by their biological parents suffer from issues related to neglect, abandonment, abuse and other trauma. Parenting grandparents are left to pick up the pieces and try to build a safe, trusting environment where these children can flourish and grow.
Added to this is grief and sadness related to the failures and problems their own children are suffering which has caused them to be unable to raise their kids. Parenting grandparents must make difficult decisions on creating boundaries with their own children so that their grandchildren have an opportunity to heal and grow.
Rebuilding a family
“One of the major challenges parenting grandparents and their grandchildren face are the transitions each must make. For the grandparents, they are parents again and have lost the pure and joy-filled grandparent relationship with their grandchildren. Grandkids also have to manage this transition. Suddenly, their grandparents have rules to follow and some children even told me, ‘They are less fun!'”
However, at the same time, parenting grandparents also have distinct advantages. Williams elaborates, “In some ways, elders have a serious advantage over younger parents. We may have a few more wrinkles, a head of silver hair or no hair at all, somewhat less energy, and a mind that is a bit more forgetful, but we do have wisdom and life experience. We also have hearts filled with compassion and love, and grandchildren are the fortunate recipients of these wonderful, hard-earned gifts.”
Parenting grandparent resources
Are you a parenting grandparent looking for support and resources to help you in your parenting journey? Check out these organizations below which are dedicated to helping grand families and other kinship caregivers:
Generations United: National organization focused on improving the lives of children, youth and older people through intergenerational strategies, programs and public policies. Find a support group to help you as a parenting grandparent.
AARP: Membership organization leading positive social change and delivering value to people age 50 and over through information, advocacy and service. Excellent resource for information, tips and tools for grandparents raising grandchildren.