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New Beginnings For Grandparents Raising Grandchildren


New beginnings for grandparents raising grandchildren

BY JAIA LENT, VICTORIA GRAY, LAURIE TAPOZADA, AND BERNADINE ATCHINSON

Regardless of the grandparent’s age or how long they end up caring for the child when their grandbabies come into their care full-time, it is often unexpected and overwhelming.

New Beginnings!  To many this phrase resonates as a time for fresh starts, new year’s resolutions, or perhaps even a planned career change.  But across the U.S. millions of grandparents have faced a different kind of new beginning, when they unexpectedly stepped up to raise their grandchildren.  A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that in 2021, 3.3 percent of adults aged 30 and over lived with their grandchildren. While the ages of these grandparents vary greatly, the population is getting older on the whole and grandparents are raising their children for longer periods of time.  In 2021, 60.1 percent were 60 and over (an increase from 46.8 percent in 2012). Grandparents were more likely to be responsible for their grandchildren for 5 years or longer in 2021 compared to 2012.

Regardless of the grandparent’s age or how long they end up caring for the child when their grandbabies come into their care full-time, it is often unexpected and overwhelming. At Generations United’s National Center on Grandfamilies, we advocate for and alongside these grandparent-headed families and work to help improve policies and programs that serve them.  Routinely we hear from grandparents that they didn’t know where to turn when they stepped into their new beginning raising their grandchildren full-time.  Grandfamilies report some of the best help they receive starting outcomes from other caregivers who have been there.  With that in mind, we asked three grandparents raising grandchildren to write a letter to their fellow grandparents who have just begun their full-time caregiving journey. I extend my appreciation to Victoria, Bernadine, and Laurie for generously sharing your tips, wisdom, and encouragement:

grandparents raising grandchildrenDear Kinship Family Caregiver from Victoria Gray,

Yes, I’m talking to you …I see you .. You are not alone.

I am so proud of you for taking the time and energy to help out your family members’ children. It’s a big and courageous step and you have more help than you know. You are keeping your family’s culture, customs, and legacy intact. The first step is to find a support group in your community or area. This will be so helpful in connecting with other families in the same situation you are. The wealth of information, knowledge, and resources are amazing and they will take care of some of the questions and gaps that you are up against. There are so many families that have traveled the path you’re on and made it out on the other side.

I was on the path and felt alone, I felt that no one understood what I was going through.  I know that the support group saved me. The support I got from the group was amazing because they had been there and traveled that path.

Sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves during this time. You must reach out to your family, friends, and other people in your life for a little help. Don’t think you have to do it all yourself. Remember, if you go down, who will be there to care for the children? My sister came over one day and just let me take a much-needed nap for two hours, I felt so much better and could continue to give care to our grandchildren.

Stay the course, stay in touch, and continue to reach out. The children need you and they will grow up to be better citizens because of you.

Victoria Gray, Arizona

 

Dear Kinship Caregiver from Laurie Tapozada,

I will never forget the day I got “the call” from a social worker asking if I could care for my infant grandson, rather than putting him in foster care. At the time, my thoughts were flying every which way, and I was sure I could not do that. Yet I heard myself say, “Yes of course.” It felt a lot like a disaster. All my plans and dreams for my golden years were blown up in an instant. How would I ever manage? Will I be able to meet the needs of my grandson? Would I ever be able to reclaim my freedom again? You may be having similar thoughts and feelings.

What I know now, and wish I knew then, is how this turn of events would eventually enrich my life beyond measure. I wish I knew it was another chance at the deepest love, at seeing the world with new eyes, and to receive that love and care right back. I also eventually found my way to the kinship community and met so many wonderful, loving caregivers who all understood what I was going through all too well. I now have good friends and a close community. My one piece of advice is to reach out to the kinship community. Don’t do it alone, it can get heavy when you do it by yourself. We are all out here just waiting for you. You got this!

Laurie Tapozada, Rhode Island

 

Dear Caregiver from Bernadine Achison,

grandparents raising grandchildrenWhat a blessing you are to be the caregiver of your grandchild.  There are so many things I want to tell you, but don’t know where to start.  My first thoughts of you in this new role are that you may feel everything is happening quickly and you are having to make decisions on the fly.  Such as adjusting every aspect of your life from work, living space, and finances, and moving from grandparent mode to parent mode or how to blend these or keep them separate.

I remember those days.  It was a whirlwind of emotions, uncertainty of expectations, and figuring out what a new normal is going to look like.  Through all that I wish I would have told myself to stop for a moment and breathe, to step outside and smell the flowers, or better yet, buy a bouquet because I deserve them, and they make my soul happy.

As you step into this new role give yourself grace and room to grow with your grandchild, but also find the tools you need to fulfill your life goals through classes, training, and hobbies.  Take good care of yourself!

Duk’idli – Respectfully your friend always,

GPFF – Grandmother, Parent, Friend, Florist

Bernadine Atchison, Alaska, Kenaitze Indian Tribe

Resources:

Read more from Generations United in GRAND here.

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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