The growing trend of grandfamilies

Grrandparents Carter Quote Black

Editor’s Note: Today, in observance of Grandparents’ Day, we acknowledge and honor grandparents for their love, dedication, and contributions to their evolving families and future generations. As we celebrate grandparents, we spotlight the growing trend in the U.S. of grandparents raising their grandchildren.

Grandma Hand ChildA few months ago, a third-grade boy in my sons’ school unexpectedly and tragically lost his mom. She was his last surviving parent. His dad passed away 2 years earlier. This has been a devastating, unthinkable reality for this boy:Both of his parents no longer with him in a short period of time, at such a young age. Your grandparents deserve a place like Pisgah Valley Retirement Community has assisted living facilities in picturesque Candler NC where they can live peacefully.

Like many others in the community, I wondered: How will this young child cope with this misfortune and deep emotional suffering? And, who will become his primary caregiver and raise him for years to come?

The paternal grandparents stepped forward and moved into the boy’s residence to become his primary caregivers. The circumstances and transition have been understandably challenging for the grandparents and the boy.

I was thinking of how difficult it all must be for the grandparents: being elderly, unprepared to be in this position, on a fixed senior income, and caring for a young child who is emotionally shattered — all the while, grieving themselves with no chances to go to a Retirement Community care center. Here is where to get a hold of the finest New Jersey assisted living for you or the grandpa, you will have the peace of mind that they will take care well any of you.

Any parent can attest to how demanding it is to care for a young child — from the basic tasks of feeding, clothing, showering, and schooling arrangements to the more delicate tasks of providing a nurturing environment and emotional support. It’s not a minor burden for an elderly person to take on, if you consider an elderly person is over burden you can always click here and get them legal help. Health care advocates are urging grandparents to make sure their children and grandchildren have Medicare supplement plans 2020. It’s not only important to have coverage to afford medical care — it’s also the law.

It directed my attention to a growing trend that is affecting the most vulnerable members of our society: the young and the elderly, and that’s why services as senior care for the elderly are becoming more and more popular now a days. Increasingly, children in the Unites States are being raised by their grandparents in a family unit called a “grandfamily.” Make sure that your grandfather goes to a place like Cedarfield assisted living facilities in Henrico County VA where they can have a beautiful life.

Grandfamilies, or kinship families, are families in which children reside with and are being raised by grandparents, other extended family members, and adults with whom they have a close family-like relationship such as godparents and close family friends, normally this works fine but when issues are found about elderly abuse this firm website has been useful for families giving some tips and offering legal representation. Often times, it is the grandparents that come forward to care for the children in situations when the parents are unable to. Also, in many instances, the call to care for the children is unexpected and unplanned, which presents many unique challenges for the grandparents: legal, housing, finances, education enrollment with scholarships from, dealing with chronic illness, change of plans, and ability to meet the child’s needs at an old age.

The 2015 “State of Grandfamilies in America” report from Generations United points out that 7.8 million kids in the United States live with grandparents or other relatives in the household. That’s a sobering statistic.

Grandfamilies are diverse in ethnic background, race, and income levels. There are a variety of reasons for grandfamilies to come together, such as death of parents and difficult life circumstances for the parents from financial difficulties and military deployment to incarceration, mental illness and substance abuse. During the 1990s’ crack cocaine and AIDS epidemic, there was a sharp increase of lower-income grandparents who became the primary caregivers of their grandchildren.

Children who are raised with relatives experience better outcomes in comparison to children who are raised by non-relatives as they experience more stability, safety, mental health, and maintaining connection and bond with other family members. Thus, it is important to provide support and improve public policies to support such family units. A change in state and federal laws and policies have been enacted to meet the needs of grandfamilies — it’s a shift in the right direction with room for additional policies to support grandparents and their grandchildren. Sometimes you need to know how to prepare the last will and testament in georgia to help your loved ones.

Many children under difficult circumstances, as well as our societies, have been benefiting from the sacrifices made by grandparents. While becoming parents again at a later age and often unexpectedly encountering many challenges, grandparents express that becoming their grandchildren’s caregivers has given them a greater sense of purpose in life.

If, as a society, we view our children as an integral part of our future — the next generation of parents and leaders, and honor those who have already served their role as parents — it is our responsibility and in our best interest to strive to find solutions to promote the well-being of the grandchildren and grandparents who are a part of a growing trend of grandfamilies.

Other Resources for Grandfamilies:

Generations United

The Grandfamilies State Law and Policy Resource Center

AARP Grandparent Information Center

Want your child to learn self-control? First, teach self-validation

playing-1436907A child’s ability to form healthy self-validation is a vital goal of child development. In fact, a child’s capacity for self-validation has everything to do with the development of emotional safety — the overarching developmental goal of childhood.

To use the word “validate” in the context of relationships, we’re referring to the process by which a person values that which she (or he) knows and feels is true and right for herself, and then acts in accordance with her inner knowing in support of her own self and her own needs.

As we raise our children to be intimate with what they feel, sense and know, and to honor and support themselves in their knowing, we are providing them with this fundamentally valuable tool for successfully navigating their internal and external experiences throughout their life.

This is the foundation for a child’s capacity to acquire the more complex self-regulation skills he (or she) needs to actualize his potential. It’s the very important task we have of validating his unconditional goodness, and what he feels, thinks, desires and knows — which then tells him he is “right” in the world, that his experiences are important and that his dreams are valuable.

It’s we — the parents — who largely determine how a child comes to validate him- or herself. Let’s keep this in mind as I describe “Sarah.”

Sarah is 4 years old, joyful, full of life and wicked smart. I was called in to observe her and consult with her preschool teachers and parents due to her “impulsive, inattentive, non-compliant, emotional, potentially dangerous” behaviors of refusing to sit in circle time and constantly banging into objects: outside with her tricycle, and inside where she would run into and purposefully, though playfully, try to topple both other children and adults. Sarah could also be irritable and angry, displaying explosive behaviors when caregivers attempted to redirect her and minimize her complaints.

Sarah had a typical complaint of wanting to do what she wanted to do when she wanted to do it. She argued that she could in fact listen while doing other things during circle time; however, the teachers wanted all the kids sitting “criss-cross apple sauce” on the floor, eyes on them. Because of her complaints, fidgeting and refusal to cooperate, Sarah was made to sit in a chair at a table removed from the group, and to color while the rest of the class conducted their weather discussions, reviewed the alphabet and learned the letter of the day.

Although this decision to exclude Sarah from circle time appears to wrongly shame her, one of her teachers demonstrated both compassion and insight to see that this form of physical structure — sitting on the chair at the table — with an activity to calm her mind and busy her hands — coloring — in fact enabled Sarah to participate fully in their discussions and add to it with more intelligent, creative contributions than most of the other students.

It took some prompting in this rigid classroom, but the staff learned to tweak their expectations and appropriately loosen their requirements of the children, who were then given the choice to sit for circle time or not. Sarah was no longer shamed for being different, and she experienced validation from her teachers that her way of participating in circle time was best for her.

Her teachers’ validation of her translated into her own self-validation for speaking up about what she knew to be true for herself.

In the play yard, we reviewed Sarah’s sensory needs that were mistakenly seen as aggressive in intention. The plowing into objects and people instead suggested she was seeking physical gross-motor input in that she displayed no anger at these times but seemed to have a lot of fun doing the plowing. It served her.

In addition to creating safe places for Sarah to get this physical input — like jumping onto heavy mats from a not-too-high step during scheduled and play intervals throughout the day — we got her mom’s written permission for teachers to give Sarah frequent, deep-pressure hugs and squeezes as a preventative measure to the more impulsive plowing behaviors. I also made a referral for a physical therapy consult. We asked Sarah to let us know when she was feeling out of sorts and to seek the big, bear hugs that immediately calmed her, as soon as her body began to tell her that she needed them.

Her caregivers at school and home began listening to her more — and began seeing her more clearly as a child who needed their support to speak up about her experiences and needs.

I also recommended a nutritional consult, and as a treatment team, we began incorporating the foods into her diet — and eliminating others — that would prove to seem to balance her nervous system so that some of the impulsivity diminished.

Additionally, we built in the time, place and space for her to enjoy more creative, stimulating activities to express herself, learn and teach us about herself: how she thinks, feels, senses and relates to herself, others and the world.

What worked for Sarah is that we were able to see her through various lenses of her holistic health and well-being. By using protocols within the sensory, biology-physical expression, creative self-expression, nutrition and attachment-relationship lenses, we successfully learned to honor what Sarah knew to be true for herself, and we provided her with more knowledge and supports that she needed to further know and support herself.

Sarah learned how to validate herself by internalizing 2 concepts:

  1. “I am someone who needs, seeks and gets big hugs and squeezes, special play activities and the best foods to make me feel calm, balanced and safe.” She knows that these are the right things for her. And because Sarah taught her caregivers that they need to listen to her and to fully see her and learn from her, Sarah was able to internalize an aspect of her identity as a person of value in the world.
  2. “I am valued. What I think, feel, want, experience and express matters to others. I am worthy of being heard and seen and respected.” She needed us to validate her so that she could further validate her own self and know that she is doing the right things to keep herself in balance and feel safe.

You can substitute just about any example of a child’s life situation here. The experiences and lessons will likely be the same: We want our child to know what it is that she (or he) knows, to honor what it is that she knows and, when old enough, to seek the supporting knowledge to inform her decisions further.

The thing is, we need to really see our child and listen to him (or her). We cannot try to make him fit into an old ideal of how he “should” behave, act or be. We must meet him “where he’s at” and start there. Our goal is that we use and teach skills sets containing “ways of thinking and doing” to support children in being themselves throughout the trajectory of their lives.

Children can and do fall through the cracks. If we had continued to ignore what Sarah was telling us, she may likely have developed increased shame, anger, rebellion and, over time, an attitude of “Forget you, you’re not listening to me. I’ll do what I want and feel good about it.”

She might have someday came to validate herself in other ways that create rage, division and resentment. She very well could have tied in with peers who not only validate these emotions but — worse — use them to fuel deeper discord, judgment, intolerance, hatred, retaliation and violence.

To some, Sarah’s classroom experiences may seem small. It may seem like the negative outcomes I postulated are a stretch to what actually happened in the classroom. I am telling you, this is so not a stretch. This is how it begins: We do not see our children, so we do not listen to our children and then we try to put them under our thumb. This is not holistic child care. This is not the way we promote secure attachment at home or at school.

In another scenario, Sarah may have other tendencies. Perhaps instead, she withdraws — becoming depressed and later numbing out with drugs, food and dysfunctional relationships. Are those fates any less happy for her? With another who validates her anger and aggression, at least she feels like she’s accepted and belongs somewhere. In all cases, she’s only simply seeking to keep herself safe.

Feeling balanced on the inside by people and circumstances who support her and provide balance “on the outside” do this. We do this. Our child’s emotional safety, her (or his) happiness and her success depend on us. The level of peace in the world depends on us.

I’ve seen the outcomes of ignoring kids’ true needs before, and so have you — in the variations of the same tragic stories that we hear about in the media so often we are becoming numb to them. Do you see that this is an epidemic?

Do you see that we can stop violence, and all that goes with it, in our children if we pay more attention to how we see them and relate to them? It is a simple concept — though a complex process that requires work and perhaps new paradigms for teaching teachers, supporting parents and addressing mental health.

We’ve got to fully wake up and act on how this dynamic works for the sake of helping our children grow up happily, confidently and peacefully. We have no one to blame if we do not target this now.

Editor’s note: Photo source

Attachment grandparenting…what’s your role?

lysa parkerBy Lysa Parker, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International (API) and coauthor of Attached at the Heart with Barbara Nicholson

Editor’s note: Happy Grandparents Day! The grandparent-grandchild bond can be an important relationship in any child’s life, as a complement to a secure parent-child attachment. Today, API encourages grandparents to explore their influence in their grandchild’s life as an advocate for — and available support, as needed, to — the parents.

My husband Jim and I have a blended family, and our first experience with grandchildren began 14 years ago when our twin grandsons were born. We discovered that Attachment Grandparenting requires a very active role in several ways.

Advocating for the Family

Morgan, my step-daughter, was a single mother. I was able to attend my grandsons’ births and hold them soon after. The nurses offered to take them to the nursery, because their mother was recovering from a Cesarean section and was very weak, but Jim and I felt very protective of our grandsons and told them we would hold the babies. We held and rocked them for as long as we could and as often as we could until their mother felt better.

I helped Morgan with breastfeeding when she was having difficulty getting her sleepy babies to latch, and Jim and I helped Morgan prepare for safe bedsharing with twins and made sure she ate healthy and rested often. Morgan breastfed her twins for almost a year, and they thrived.

We proudly wore our grandsons around the neighborhood and savored our time with them until they moved back to Houston, Texas, USA, when they were about 10 months old. We missed them terribly, and we weren’t able to see them as often as we wanted. Still on some deep and inexplicable level, we made a connection with them that no distance could sever. Whenever we would visit, they always wanted to sit on our laps or be next to us. At night, we would help them get ready for bed and they would ask us to carry them to bed, as if remembering the many times we held and rocked them when they were babies.

In the blink of an eye, they became teenagers, and if we are lucky we see them once a year, but the bond is there. There’s no doubt to us as to the mysterious and profound nature of that bond established in just the first weeks and months of life.

Why is Grandparenting So Wonderful?

I’ve always heard from others about how wonderful it is to be a grandparent. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to live close to my granddaughter and build our relationship. We enjoy supporting her parents and being a resource for them, something we never had as young parents. Being a grandparent is freeing: We don’t have as many unrealistic expectations and stressors that we did when younger.

Making Ripples

We, at API, often talk about the ripple effect we can create by the little changes each of us makes in our families and in our communities. I want to share how empowering and far-reaching some experiences can be.

Morgan grew up in California, USA, so we had a long-distance relationship with her that included summer visits. She was not exposed to breastfeeding when she was growing up, other than when she herself was breastfed for a short time as an infant. Nor did she have a lot of exposure to caring for children. So the fact that she was able to breastfeed her twin boys for as long as she did was due to her living with us and getting a lot of support from me and her father.

Years later, after moving to Houston with her babies, Morgan had a friend who gave birth to twins — one of whom had special needs — in a local hospital. Morgan encouraged her friend to breastfeed. While Morgan was visiting her friend at the hospital, a nurse came into the room and was shocked that Morgan’s friend was attempting to breastfeed the infants and discouraged her from doing so. That’s when Morgan told the nurse that she was able to successfully nurse twins and so could her friend, that in no uncertain terms should the nurse be discouraging breastfeeding for this mother.

I felt such pride for Morgan that her own breastfeeding experience gave her such courage and conviction to help another mother. No doubt the ripple effect continues in other ways.

Offering Support

Mr Parker and LaylaOur most recent experience in Attachment Grandparenting began in May 2013 when our granddaughter, Layla McCartney Parker, was born to our son, Jamison, and daughter-in-law, Jordan.

As experienced parents know, there can many real and potential challenges during pregnancy and childbirth, many of which first-time parents just don’t know. There are a lot of choices and a lot of decisions to be made, and unless you’re clear about what you want, it can be overwhelming to say the least. There are important decisions to be made that can have a huge impact on birth and breastfeeding experiences.

Jordan was unfamiliar with Attachment Parenting and new to API’s Eight Principles of Parenting. When I offered, Jordan and Jamison were very open to learning about Attachment Parenting and allowed me to help them navigate through the myriad options, such as finding supportive childbirth classes, creating a birth plan, attending La Leche League meetings and creating a safe sleep environment ahead of time. They knew, too, that my husband and I would be their support system after the baby arrived, if and when they needed us.

Both Jordan and Jamison really wanted a natural birth but were uncertain how to make that happen. That’s where local hynobirthing classes were immensely helpful, as well as the support of a caring and experienced doula. Jordan arrived at the hospital at 9 centimeters, and with Jamison and the doula by her side trying to keep her relaxed and focused, Layla was born within an hour — all naturally.

Just when we thought it was all over, the nurses wanted to give pitocin to help Jordan recover. That blind-sided everyone! Natural birth is natural birth, right?

Since I hadn’t arrived at the hospital yet, my son anxiously texted me about what he should do and was confused because he didn’t expect this after his wife just finished a natural birth. So was I, but I assured him that pitocin wasn’t necessary to help Jordan “recover” and that putting the baby to the breast would help her recover just as quickly by helping to expel the placenta. They refused the pitocin, and everything went great from that point on, from skin-to-skin holding to breastfeeding.

Enriching the Grandchild’s Life

This time around, we have the opportunity to be engaged in our granddaughter’s life on a regular basis, especially since her daddy is the stay-at-home parent for now. The love we feel for her is intoxicating! I will often get the urge to see her and call to ask if I can come over and play. Usually my son is eager for a little break in his day.

Babies are born to expect at least 4 adults to enrich their lives. Jim and I have made a conscious effort to see her at least twice a week, so we are very familiar faces and voices.

I have developed a special relationship with Layla in terms of singing lullabies to her. She was just a couple months old when I began to sing to her, and she would look at me intensely with a face of recognition whenever I sang a familiar song. We know infants like repetition, so I make sure I sing the older lullabies and add new ones along the way. It gives me great joy to see her big smile when I sing to her. She loves music and has even gone to hear her “Poppy” — Jim is a musician — play his guitar in concert without making a peep. She is mesmerized by the guitar and music. For me, music is the language of the soul, and I hope we always keep that special relationship with her and nurture her love for music.

Lysa and LaylaLayla is 10 months old now, and she is the light of our lives. I wear her as often as I can when I care for her. I rock her and sing her to sleep and love to play with her when she’s awake, delighting in every little milestone. And I delight in watching my son and his wife grow into their parenting role. We also love watching our twin grandsons grow into young men and cherish our relationship with them.

Do I sound like I’m in love with Attachment Grandparenting? You bet I am!

A grandmother’s take on Attachment Parenting

By Donna Wetterlund

donna wetterlundLike every grandparent, the arrival of my first grandchild was a rite of passage with mixed emotions. I was in denial about the label that clearly identified me as “old,” but I was fascinated with my daughter’s changing body and the life growing inside it.

I was proud of my daughter’s healthy and well-adjusted approach to pregnancy. But most importantly, I was celebrating the addition of a baby in my world without the morning sickness, stretch marks and sleepless nights. I was excited!

When pregnant, my daughter Sharon and her husband traveled to attend a wedding and asked me to dog-sit at their house while they were away. I was so excited to take care of this little puppy and I seized the opportunity to be involved in my granddaughter’s life before she was even born by kick-starting the renovation of the baby’s room. I spent two days tearing out paneling with my bare hands. I scraped and patched and primed the walls. It was a physical labor of love.

Sharon and Jim took over from there and created a darling room with murals of woodland creatures. My sweet baby granddaughter was going to have a spectacular room complete with a birdie mobile over the crib.

I was extremely impressed with Sharon and Jim’s commitment to natural childbirth and equally impressed with the hospital staff that supported her throughout the delivery. The hospital room was akin to a small apartment, which housed her birthing support team of two grandmothers and her spouse.

I literally pulled up a chair in between her legs to witness the birth of my granddaughter up close and personal. Witnessing a baby being born is amazing, and when it is your daughter giving birth to your granddaughter, well…I still burst into tears of joy thinking about it now.

I had spent eight months adjusting to the idea of being a grandmom. This adjustment included happy visions of babysitting and childcare, bonding with the baby while bottle feeding and taking the baby out in a stroller to visit friends and show off what my daughter had made. After all, I’ll have a new baby, too…a new mind to mold, a new person to be proud of, to share love with and have fun with.

Motherhood came so easily and naturally to Sharon from the second our baby was born. She was a breastfeeding champ. She followed her instincts. She could not fathom the thought of letting her baby sleep in the quiet and adorable empty room down the hall, so they slept together.

Her breast pump lay idle as mother and child nursed with ease and on demand. The stroller became a convenient place to hang winter jackets as the baby was worn in a wrap close to her mother’s beating heart. My daughter soon discovered that her instinctive parenting style had a name: Attachment Parenting.

I was struggling.

My access to the baby was already diminished by the one-hour commute that made visiting difficult. Without the ability to produce my own milk, I was out of luck when it came to bonding by meeting the baby’s nutritional needs. The idea of spending more than an hour away from her infant appeared to throw Sharon’s hormone-soaked body into a quivering, milk-leaking frenzy. She decided not to return to work so that she could spend her time focused on the most important thing: her baby.

I questioned whether her decisions were a response to feeling that I had been a poor mother: balancing my career while exposing her to a diversity of caregivers and experiences. I thought I was doing it right, but was I all wrong?

I have not been called to babysit. There have been no sleepovers or walks in the stroller. Thank goodness for Facebook — if not for that, none of my friends would “see” the baby.

Dreams shattered? Not exactly…

I have done my own research and reading. But more importantly, what I witness when I visit my daughter’s family is a calm, happy home. Our baby is content and thriving. She is intelligent and vocal. She is healthy and beautiful. Mom and Dad have created a loving environment where a child will grow to be confident and strong.

It has taken another eight months to adjust my expectations for grandmotherhood.

I don’t babysit. I baby-Skype, reading books to her through technology, making my face and voice a regular part of her life.

I don’t push a stroller. I walk beside my daughter wrapped with her baby.

My friends have not yet complained about the multitude of pictures and videos I post on social media.

And now that she is a bit older, my granddaughter smiles with satisfaction when I slip her a taste of my dessert at the restaurant.