As National Grandparents Day is celebrated around the country Sunday, Sept. 11, churches, senior centers and schools will hold dinners and other formal programs to recognize grandparents. Many families will gather at picnics or family reunions to pay private tribute to grandparents on this special day during their golden years.
But for many grandparents, thegolden yearshave been put on hold while they again assume the role ofMomandDad.They need to raise their grandchildren. For these grandparents, National Grandparents Day is just another day filled with usual and unusual parenting responsibilities.
Those responsibilities can be quite a heavy load if the grandparents assumed their new duties because their own children are struggling with substance abuse, child abuse, jail, abandonment, divorce, unemployment or AIDS , explained Carol Winland, who coordinates West Virginia Relatives as Parents Program (RAPP) for West Virginia University Extension Service
In such cases, the grandchildren came not to visit but to stay. They arrived with lots of baggage for grandparents to deal with, Winland said.
Grandparents must discipline children who are mourning the loss of their parents and mayact outtheir pain by arguing or fights with classmates. Many children dont understand why they cant live with their parents. The separation is a painful ordeal for them and their grandparents.
Discipline creates additional problems. Grandparents may have mixed feelings about how to discipline grieving children. Some grandparents, Winland said, may feel that discipline will only make the children feel more lonely and punished. These grandparents may become overprotective.
At the other extreme are those grandparents who set overly rigid boundaries because they dont want children to repeat the behavior of their parents.
Finances are another complication for these families. Grandparents who have retired may find they have to go back to work to meet the expenses of a second family. Some grandparents may resort to using retirement savings or their Social Security benefits to support their grandchildren.
Winland said that these grandparents also grieve for the life they have lost. Their whole lifestyle has changed. Before the grandkids came to live with them, the grandparents could come and go as they pleased. Now that freedom is just a memory.
These are just a few of the many issuesgrandparent parentsface daily.
Community members and organizations can help by offering events that give grandparents a night off from cooking dinner and washing dishes,Winland suggested.Or they can make sure to invite grandchildren to organized events such as church play groups and other after-school programs. Organized events for children give grandparent parents a much-needed break.
But grandparents need a break more than once a year.
The RAPP coordinator said that friends and relatives along with members of church groups and community organizations can honor National Grandparents Day by finding ways to support these parenting grandparents throughout the year.
Grandparents�€and other kincaregivers�€also can find help by joining a community support group for relative parents. Many such groups are part of the West Virginia Relatives as Parents Program (RAPP).
Winland can provide contact information for local RAPP groups and information about how to organize a RAPP group. For more information, call Winland , 304-290-9317.