The Challenging Roles of Grandparents

Erroll Lewis  |  12/6/2014 12:29:24 AM

Now that the seasonal holidays are upon us, memories of the elders sharing wisdom and preparing foods are what many families reminisce about or look forward to. Awaiting our grandparents' cooked, mouthwatering holiday meals are what most ponder. As with so many of the new, fast paced changes in American life, grandparents' roles have changed significantly. Increasingly more parents are dying or are killed, divorced, drug addicted or incarcerated and other family neglect or abuse problems contribute to children being raised by grandparents or relatives. That precipitates the transfer of grandchildren from parents to grandparents. As more grandparents are assuming the responsibility of being the grandchildren’s new parent, the role changes. Adoption, guardianship and foster parents are statuses given with the role being one of authority and not just one of fun and joy with the basic visitation or weekend stay with grandparents.

The grandparents now assume the role of parents, to nurture, discipline, and guide the child’s future. They give up planned retirement and the typical “grandparent relationship” when the grandchildren have no parents to care for them. This predicament often creates needy and problematic behaviors in many of the grandchildren's lives. Often these grandparents now take on two more lifetime burdens - first, caring for the grandchild and additionally caring for the child who is addicted, incarcerated, or suffering from mental illness or disease. These conditions have long lasting effects on the grandparents which cause stress, depression, and feelings of being overwhelmed and unhappiness.

In Louisiana:

Most grandparents in Louisiana lack a number of resources, such as basic support services and programs to assist with the rearing of these children who, unconsciously and unintentionally, pose challenging burdens with enormous emotional and behavioral concerns to grandparents.

Stats on Grandparents:

· 159,522 children live with grandparents or other relatives

· 72,555 children are being solely raised by grandparents

· 51% are black grandparents

· 46% are white grandparents

· 1% are Hispanic grandparents

· 27% of grandparents live in poverty

· 38% have no parent living with grandparents

· 68% of grandparents are under age 60

References:
www.childwelfare.gov  
www.kidscount.org
www.oregonstate.edu

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