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No So Traditional Grandparents

THE “traditional” grandparent is becoming a thing of the past, with some grandparents taking on so many responsibilities that their role is becoming indistinguishable from a parent in some families.

Source: Courier Mail 

A submission by the Australian Institute of Family Studies into a Senate committee into grandparent care says caring for children is a role now shared beyond the nuclear family to members of the extended family.

Almost four in 10 young children are cared for by a grandparent during the week, the AIFS said.

“While the nuclear family continues to predominate in Australia and other Western countries, research over the years has consistently indicated that key relationships extend beyond household boundaries,” the AIFS said.

“Grandparents are important providers of informal childcare, especially for children under the age of five years.”

Grandparents are also helping mums and dads out ­financially and becoming teachers, companions and role models for their grandkids.

“Contemporary grandparenting roles are not more likely to include those of companion, teacher, family, community and cultural historian, and mentor,’’ the AIFS said.

“Grandparents can also become surrogate parents,” the AIFS said. “ Some grandparents also provide financial support to grandchildren and the grandchildren’s parents. This can be especially important, even critical, in times of hardship or crisis.”

Single mum Katharine Jarvie, 29, said she would find it impossible to run her photography business without her mother Desley Gonsalves, 50, helping to look after her grandchildren ­Jackson, 5, and Ella, 3.

“She helps a lot with the babysitting, she helps me out when I’m struggling – she is a big part of their life,” Ms Jarvie said.

Ms Gonsalves said she was happy to help out with the children, caring for them when her daughter needed to work.

“She’s starting a new business and I want to help out, and it’s so good spending time with the children,” Ms Gonsalves said.

The Senate inquiry is ­investigating the role of grandparents in raising their grandchildren, and looking specifically at family units where grandparents take primary responsibility for the children.

The AIFS said there were about 46,680 grandparent-headed families in Australia where grandparents – instead of parents – are the family carers.

Queensland Council of Grandparents president Maree Lubach said caring for grandchildren often came at a considerable financial cost.

“It is not cheap to babysit your grandchildren at home – all the little things you provide for them, all the extra food, transport, baby seats – there are a lot more expenses involved in it than meet the eye,’’ she said.


Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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