Since 2009, the number of grandparents raising their grandchildren is up approximately seven percent and growing. Experts believe this is because an increase in military deployment, incarceration, and opioid addiction cases is forcing grandparents to take on a parenting role. Aside from the fact that most grandparents don’t have the same stamina as they did when they were first-time parents, of the 2.7 million grandparents raising grandchildren in the U.S., census figures show that about one-fifth have incomes below the poverty line. While the road may not be easy, there are resources available along with some general parenting tips to help give you the support you need.
You May Be Available for Financial Aid
Depending on your current financial situation, you may be eligible to receive financial assistance. There are several state and federal programs available such as: TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), Child Only Grant, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and even Social Security benefits. Local churches and organizations often provide aid in the form of clothing, food, utilities, holiday gifts, and rental assistance.
You’ll Have to Adjust Your Routine
It’s important that your grandkids feel as though they have a stable environment, so you’ll have to adjust your routine. Provide comfort and some semblance of control by letting them have input in their new surroundings, such as letting them decorate their own rooms and choose ideas for mealtime.
Create a Safe Home Environment
Lock up dangerous items like your medication, firearms, and alcohol. Establish rules for cleaning up after themselves so you’re not at risk for tripping on toys or shoes. If the children are really small, put breakable and/or dangerous items out of arm’s reach. Cover sharp corners of furniture with bumper guards and place childproof locks on cabinets if applicable.
Engage With Grandkids on a Daily Basis
When it comes to parenting, you may be a bit rusty, but engagement is key for mental health, growth, and a sense of security and love. Look for fun yet educational activities to keep kids amused online or at the kitchen table. Also make sure you establish and enforce clear age-appropriate boundaries and rules while being present in the morning, after school, before bed, and on the weekends when they’re not with friends. Creating a fun weekend ritual will help create a more established family feel.
Get Involved With Your Grandkids’ School
Knowledge is power, and rules and protocols have likely changed since you raised your own kids. Be an active presence by volunteering, attending conferences, and attending parent-teacher conferences and other school-based activities whenever you can.
Take Care of Your Health
Don’t get so caught up in taking care of the kids that you neglect your own health. Make sure you’re checking in with yourself regularly to ensure your physical and emotional needs are met. Make an effort to eat well and get adequate amounts rest and exercise.
Don’t Feel Guilty About Taking a Time-Out
It is normal to feel overwhelmed, stressed, tired, and anxious from time to time, so don’t feel guilty about asking for help from friends, neighbors, loved ones, or agencies if need be. If possible, get a little “me” time when the kids are at school, sleeping, or visiting with friends.
If you fall into the camp of grandparents who regularly take care of the kids versus fully raising them, you may not be eligible for the same amount of benefits. Be sure to do your homework to ensure you’re doing what’s best for the children so they can be brought up in a loving and stable environment. Being a parent the second time around can be a rewarding experience that gives you purpose later in life.