2013-09-05 / Senior Savvy

Grandparents Day and Beyond

By Florence Archambault

Sunday, Sept. 8, is being celebrated as Grandparents Day and rightly so, since grandparents can be an important part of our lives and a great influence on us.

I was fortunate to have had close contact with two of my grandparents. My maternal grandmother lived across the street, and my paternal grandfather lived with my family from the time I was just about a year old until he died, after the birth of his first great-grandchild, my daughter. Their impact on me was significant. They helped to keep my siblings and me in line and made sure we didn’t get away with anything. I consider myself to have been very lucky to have grown up in their presence.

You often hear that the best thing about having grandchildren is that after a while they go home to their parents. For many of us, though, that is not always the case.

Many grandparents are stepping in to raise their grandchildren when the children’s parents are unable to do so for a myriad of reasons. The task is hard but the impact that grandparents have is incalculable. President Barack Obama was raised by his grandparents for several years.

Generations United reports that 7.8 million children across the country live in households headed by grandparents or other relatives. The hard work, dedication, and commitment of these caregivers save taxpayers more than $6.5 billion dollars each year by keeping the kids out of the foster care system. According to the 2013 RI Kids Count report, 13,968 children in the state live in households headed by grandparents. On Aquidneck Island, that number is 542.

Grandparents who parent in “grandfamilies” face unique challenges. There is a greater generation gap between the grandparents and their grandchildren, and many adjustments have to be made. Often the children come with issues that need to be resolved, and sometimes the grandparent needs help to deal with them. Assistance is available.

Child & Family, a community services agency, offers support to those raising grandchildren. Workshops and support groups meet the first and third Tuesday of the month at noon, and every second and fourth Monday at 6 p.m. at the Florence Gray Center in Newport. Call 401-848-4135 or 401-848-4185 for more information.

There are many resources available today over the internet. Visit usa. gov/ Topics/ Grandparents. shtml for a host of information on programs available ranging from financial assistance to support. AARP runs a Grandparent Information Center, where you can sign up for advice, a newsletter or visit a message board located at aarp.org/ relationships/grandparenting.

If you are the primary caregiver for your grandchildren, it is very important to take care of yourself. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. If you need to, find a support group, talk to someone, take a break if you can, find a competent babysitter, and learn to say no.

If you know of a grandparent raising the kids, then celebrate Grandparents Day by acknowledging their efforts. Tell them how great it is that they have taken on this responsibility, and, if you are able, offer them a hand if they need it.

As for those of you who don’t find yourselves in this dilemma, thank your lucky stars and just relax and enjoy your grandchildren. Don’t forget the great-grandchildren either. Interact with them and form a bond that will last throughout their lives. And remember -- you can always send them home to their parents!

Florence Archambault, of Newport, is 83 years young and well-known for her community volunteerism and teaching and writing family history.

She has published two Newport books and has contributed to

Newport this Week since 1976.

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