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Why More Grandparents Are Raising Their Grandchildren Than Ever Before

In today’s rapidly evolving demographic landscape, the concept of “grandfamilies” has become increasingly prevalent. This term refers to households where grandparents are primary caregivers for their grandchildren. This phenomenon has been driven by various factors, including longer life expectancy, smaller family sizes, and socio-economic challenges that prevent parents from fulfilling their caregiving roles.

The Growth of Grandfamilies:Demographic Shifts

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According to the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, the number of grandparents worldwide surged to 1.5 billion by the end of 2022, up from 500 million in 1960. This demographic shift highlights the increasing reliance on grandparents as primary caregivers.

Factors Contributing to Grandfamilies

Several factors contribute to the rise of grandfamilies, including:

  • Temporary Circumstances: Military deployments, joblessness, or temporary health issues.
  • Long-term Challenges: Mental illness, divorce, incarceration, death, or substance abuse.

The Role of Grandparents in Childcare: Support for Working Mothers

Happy grandfather having fun while feeding his grandson at dining table.
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Grandparents play a crucial role in supporting working mothers. In the US, a significant portion of young children, primary-school-aged children, and teens spend time with their grandparents weekly. This support is vital in enabling mothers to increasingly participate in the workforce.

Benefits for Grandchildren

Nana. Grandmother. Nana. older woman. Senior.
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Children raised by grandparents benefit from the love and attention of multiple caregivers. Studies indicate that these children often fare better emotionally and behaviorally compared to those in non-relative foster care.

Positive Impacts of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Grandparents and child. Image credit PeopleImages.com - Yuri A via Shutterstock.
Image credit PeopleImages.com – Yuri A via Shutterstock.
  1. Better Behavioral and Mental Health Outcomes: Children raised by grandparents or other relatives tend to have better behavioral and mental health outcomes compared to those who are not.
  2. Reduced Depression Transmission: A close relationship with grandparents can help break the chain of depression transmission from mother to child.
  3. Emotional Support: Grandparents can provide emotional support, which can positively impact a child’s mental health, especially in situations where the parents are struggling with their own mental health issues.

Negative Impacts of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

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  1. Developmental, Physical, Behavioral, and Emotional Difficulties: Children raised by grandparents may experience a range of difficulties, including depression, anxiety, ADHD, physical health problems, learning disabilities, and aggression. These difficulties can arise due to the challenges faced by their parents, such as substance abuse, neglect, or incarceration.
  2. Feelings of Anger, Rejection, and Guilt: Children may experience negative emotions related to their family situation, which can affect their mental health.

Challenges Grandparents Can Face Raising Grandchildren

Grandparents and kids.
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  1. Legal and Financial Issues: Grandparents often face legal challenges, lacking custody or guardianship rights, which hampers their ability to make crucial decisions regarding their grandchildren’s schooling and medical care. Financial insecurity is another significant issue, with many grandparents living below the poverty line and struggling to meet their grandchildren’s needs.
  2. Health and Well-being of Grandparents:The physical and emotional toll on grandparents raising grandchildren is considerable. Higher rates of depression, chronic health issues, and emotional stress are common among these caregivers.

 Importance of Grandparental Support

Grandfather and grandson.
Image credit Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock.
  1. Grandparental Involvement: Greater grandparental involvement is associated with fewer emotional problems in adolescents, especially in single-parent or stepfamilies.
  2. Emotional Well-Being: The more frequently grandparents and grandchildren have contact, the more satisfied and emotionally well grandparents are, and the fewer symptoms of depression both parties experience.

 Strategies for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Grandmother and grandchild.
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  1. Seek Support: Join support groups and access available resources to manage the challenges of raising grandchildren.
  2. Maintain a Positive Outlook: Focus on the benefits of raising grandchildren and view challenges positively to reduce stress.
  3. Engage in Self-Care: Take care of physical and mental health to better support grandchildren.
  4. Establish a Schedule: Establish a routine to provide stability for grandchildren.

Support systems for grandparents raising grandchildren

Senior support group.
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If you are a grandparent raising grandchildren, there are many support systems in place to help you and the children.

Support Groups

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Organizations like the Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and AARP offer support groups where grandparents can connect with others in similar situations, share experiences, and receive emotional support and guidance.

Online Communities

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Online forums and groups, such as AARP’s Raising Grandchildren group, provide a platform for grandparents to connect with others, ask questions, and share advice.

Professional Counseling

senior counseling.
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Grandparents can seek professional help from therapists, counselors, or social workers to manage stress, emotional challenges, and relationship issues.

Resource Centers

Senior in center.
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Organizations like the AARP Resource Center for General Caregiving and the DHHS Information Center provide access to various resources, including financial assistance, food and nutrition programs, and housing assistance.

Kinship Navigator

woman shrugging. Questioning. Wondering.
Image credit Roman Samborskyi via Shutterstock.

The Kinship Navigator is a tool that helps grandparents navigate the complex system of services and resources available to them.

legal assistance senior.
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Grandparents can access legal resources and policy information through organizations like Grandfamilies.org to help with custody, guardianship, and other legal issues.

Community Services

Senior support. Hands all in.
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Grandparents can find local services such as respite care, before- and after-school programs, and mentoring programs through organizations like the YMCA and YWCA.

The Takeaway

Grandparents and kids.
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Overall, the impact of being raised by grandparents on a child’s mental health is complex and influenced by various factors. While there are potential challenges, a supportive and involved grandparental relationship can have a positive influence on a child’s mental well-being.

Grandparent specific support systems are available to provide emotional, practical, and financial assistance to grandparents raising grandchildren, helping them to better care for their grandchildren and manage the challenges that come with this role.

What We Can All Learn From Polyamorous Parents

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Experts On Polyamory Share Insights Around Communication, Community, And Support That Can Be Helpful To All Parents.

It’s been 10 years since journalist Jennifer Senior observed in her book All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood that, according to many studies, parents aren’t happier than the child-free “and in certain cases are considerably less happy.” Since then, it doesn’t seem like much has changed for parents.

READ: What We Can All Learn From Polyamorous Parents

Is Your Child An Old Soul Or Gifted? How To Tell The Difference

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Do you have a young child who says things that make you think, how do they understand that at such a mature level? Or how would they know that; they have never done this before? Or a child who sits down at a piano at age 3 and plays a song they just heard by ear?

Old soul? Gifted? How do you tell the difference?

READ: Is Your Child An Old Soul Or Gifted? How To Tell The Difference

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  • Dede Wilson

    Dédé Wilson is a journalist with over 17 cookbooks to her name and is the co-founder and managing partner of the digital media partnership Shift Works Partners LLC, currently publishing through two online media brands, FODMAP Everyday® and The Queen Zone.

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