Grandparents raising children for a second time, ‘grandfamilies’ struggle during the pandemic
BY LATORIUS ADAMS, MHS
Globally, grandparents often serve as surrogate parents for their grandchildren, usually in response to family crises and other sociopolitical issues. Grandparents raising grandchildren are primarily responsible for all aspects of their grandchildren’s care. While some grandparents have a legal relationship with the grandchildren they are raising, many are caring for their grandchildren informally.
“Grandparents raising grandchildren frequently experience stress. They are caring for children at a point in their lives when they never expected.”
There are 70 million grandparents living in the United States. More than 1 in 10 grandparents have a grandchild living with them, according to AARP’s 2018 Grandparents Today National Survey. Of the 70 million grandparents in the United States in 2018, about 10 percent lived with grandchildren, up from just 7 percent in 1992, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the percentage of grandparents raising grandchildren was highest in states with higher opioid prescription rates.
Grandparents raise their grandchildren for a variety of reasons. Most of these reasons reflect difficulties experienced by the grandchild’s parent, which prevents the parents from caring for their children. Specifically, grandparents often raise their grandchildren due to a combination of parental substance abuse, abuse and neglect, unemployment, incarceration, mental or physical illness, teenage pregnancy, and abandonment.
Raising a grandchild affects every aspect of a grandparent’s life. As a result, grandparents raising grandchildren face many challenges: legally, financially, socially, physically, and mentally. The COVID-19 pandemic is not only heightening challenges that these families already face but also forming additional challenges. Another big challenge for grandparents raising grandchildren is the generation gaps that make care difficult when older adults are not current with youth fads, technologically savvy, or knowledgeable about school subjects and teaching methods. Despite pandemic-induced changes in school modalities, GRG remains responsible for ensuring the education of their grandchildren, including overseeing whichever venue is used this school year (in-person, online, hybrid, etc.). Placing greater responsibility on GRG to organize, monitor, and teach grandchildren may be a burden that is too much for grandparents to handle.
Grandparents raising grandchildren frequently experience stress. They are caring for children at a point in their lives when they never expected. In addition, their new role as caregivers isolates them from friends and others their own age.
Reasons Grandparents Raising Grandkids May Feel Stressed
- The added strain of caring for children
- Blaming themselves for their adult children being unable to parent
- Financial issues due to raising their children
- Isolation from friends
- Lack of access to daycare or health insurance for their grandchildren
- Legal issues involving raising their grandchildren
Many communities offer support groups for grandparents raising grandchildren. Support groups provide participants with an opportunity to talk about their experiences and feelings in a safe, supportive environment. Participants can also gain information about local resources, learn from one another, and meet people dealing with similar issues. Support groups allow time for personal sharing, but also take a positive outlook through structured-sharing time, connecting participants to sources of support, and helping participants set and reach goals. The Harnett County GRasP (Grandparents and Relatives as Parents) is a Family Caregiver Support Program that provides training and information for residents age 55 and older who are raising their grandchildren. The support group meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 11 a.m. at the Harnett County Division on Aging, 309 W. Cornelius Harnett Blvd., Lillington. Resources are available online for grandparents who cannot or should not attend in-person groups due to risks associated with COVID-19. Online support groups are offered in a variety of formats including discussion meetings via teleconferencing groups, chat and live technology. For more information on the program, contact Latorius Adams at 910-814-6075 or log onto the Harnett County Division on Aging website at www.harnett.org/aging.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Latorius Adams, MHS
Family Caregiver Support Program Specialist / Medicare Counselor
Harnett County Government Complex
309 W. Cornelius Harnett Blvd.
Lillington, NC 27546