By Deb Simons
ADRC of Florence County
When we think of caregivers, many of us probably think of a spouse caring for their spouse or a child caring for their parent. As our world continues to spin and change, some roles tend to change — even go in reverse. This is especially true for grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren. When parents are absent or unable to raise their children, grandparents are often the ones who step in and raise their grandchildren.
Raising a second generation brings many rewards, like giving your grandchildren a sense of security and making a real difference in your grandchild’s life, but it also brings some challenges. No matter how much you love your grandchild, taking them into your home requires many major adjustments, such as finding the right support systems. The following are some helpful tips that could be useful in your day-to-day experiences with your grandchild.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
The simple prospect of raising your grandchild is bound to trigger a variety of emotions — good and bad –and that’s normal. The love you feel for your grandchild and the joy of seeing them grow are positive emotions that you may feel. Negative emotions, such as guilt, resentment, or fear are difficult to admit, but feeling and admitting these emotions doesn’t minimize the love you have for your grandchild. If you start to feel overwhelmed, remember that you may not have the energy you once did, but you do have the wisdom that comes with experience. You are at an advantage — you’ve done this before and learned from your mistakes. Don’t ever underestimate what you have to offer.
Create a Stable Environment
Children thrive in stable and predictable environments. While it may take your grandchild some time to adjust, there are steps you can take to make the transition easier. Routines make the world feel safe so establish a routine for mealtimes and bedtimes. Also, encourage your grandchild’s input in their new home. Let them decorate their room — they will feel more control of themselves and their environment. Set clear, age-appropriate rules that are enforced consistently.
Encourage Open Communication
It is essential to truly listen to your grandchild and to encourage honest and open communication. In difficult times, they need an adult that they can go for questions, concerns, and feelings. Plan regular times to sit down and talk with your grandchild (without the distraction of TV and electronics). Also, encourage the child to talk about their feelings — good and bad — and listen without judging or dismissing their feelings. Remember: it’s okay to say “I don’t know” — you don’t have to have an answer for everything.
There is no shame in asking for help. Finding a local support group, religious community, or good friends can make a tremendous impact on your family.
The Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County has resources available to grandparents raising their grandchildren.
The ADRC is located in the lower level of the Florence County Courthouse, 501 Lake Avenue. Call, 715-528-4890, stop in, or visit www.florencecountywi.com, click on Departments then Aging and Disability Resource Center. Hours of service are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. These services are available at no cost to Florence County residents.