Grandparents raising grandchildren: Part one

Learn about grandparents raising grandchildren.

Michigan State University Extension provides information on promoting healthy relationships in all types of families. One type of family is a growing population of grandparents raising grandchildren. There are many reasons why grandparents end up raising their grandchildren. Sometimes it is because of parental drug addiction, mental health issues, child abuse or neglect, incarceration, military deployment and death of a parent. Whatever the reason, it is very common. According to the US Census 2010-2015 American Community Survey, there are approximately 1.9 million grandparents responsible for their own grandchildren under 18 years of age in the US. In Michigan, there are over 48 thousand grandparents raising grandchildren.

According to Generations United (GU), Grandfamilies fact sheet, grandparents raising grandchildren are racially and ethnically diverse, live below and above the poverty line, are mostly under 60 and still in the labor force. GU states nationally that 20 percent live below the poverty line and 80 percent live at or above the poverty line. GU also states that 60 percent of those grandparents are still in the workforce, and 72 percent own their own home.

Grandparents raising grandchildren have many challenges and rewards. Some challenges include dealing with legal issues through the court system, schools and accessing health services. In addition, this new living situation adds physical and mental stress to both the grandparents and the children who are all trying to adjust to the new normal. While dealing with a myriad of emotions, many of them negative. Housing can prove to be a challenge as well, especially for those living on a fixed income in smaller homes or apartments and even more challenging if their residence is in a ‘seniors only’ complex.

Some rewards of raising your grandchildren include being able to be a supportive person in their life at a very challenging and scary time. Knowing that although you may not be as young as when you parented the first time, you do have the benefit of wisdom. At this point you probably have a good idea of what worked, and what didn’t. Other things that make it rewarding include being able to shower your grandchildren with all the love you have for them and taking joy in watching them learn and grow. Most importantly, you can take pride in the fact that you are providing them with a stable, loving environment and giving them a sense of security.

Although it can be a scary and somewhat stressful time for you and your grandchildren, there is a multitude of support and information to guide you along the way. This is just a start. Look for upcoming articles dealing with topics like child development, fun learning activities, disciplining, education, relationships, communication, caring for yourself and navigating legal and other systems. 

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