While I’m not a professional educator or researcher in the area of grandparents raising grandchildren, I’m seeing an example of such first-hand. My husband and I have very good friends well into their seventies who are temporarily (at this time) raising their grandchildren. The children range in age from 6-18 years old. It’s a growing challenge for our friends and many grandparents today.
It seems that family units are broken for many reasons. That’s nothing new. Those of us who are grandparents cannot assume we won’t need to raise our grandchildren either temporarily or with permanent placement.
Statistically the majority of grandparents are under 65 years of age and are employed. Most grandchildren in need are under six years of age. The raising of grandchildren may often come at a time when one is looking forward to a more leisurely life with less responsibility. Raising grandchildren requires emotional, financial, health and legal support.
It is often difficult to be a supportive parent and grandparent. Are you the parent to your adult child and your grandchildren or are you the saving grace to a child? Grandparents lives are changed forever by the decision to raise these children. You may have to relinquish that grandparent *magic* to create a safe environment for the child. A grandparent is suddenly immersed in schoolwork and soccer games. The grandparent role changes, but the grandchildren generally understand the sacrifices of their grandparents and respect those efforts. The rewarding aspect of safety far outweighs the burdens.
Each of us is called upon to react in kindness and compassion for the families involved. Can we offer a meal delivered, an afternoon of childcare, homework tutoring, trips to the library or gift cards to help with unexpected expenses?
Raising a grandchild is complicated. It is a life changing and emotionally charged decision. It is my hope that we will respond as Jesus would have us do-with support, advocacy and love for our neighbors, the friends and family raising their grandchildren.
Syd Brinkman, a doting grandmother in Allison, Iowa, is serving her second term on the churchwide executive board.