Feeling exhausted and drained at the end of the day might be typical for many of us. But for those raising their grandchildren, balancing the demands of young children with their own self-care can be daunting.
In an effort to better help and support “grandfamilies,” Colorado State University and the University of Hawaii have been collaborating with CSU Extension and local community and agency partners on the GRANDcares Project, which is launching a six-week class next month.
The class, “Powerful Tools for Caregivers – Grandfamilies,” will be held on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 10 through Nov. 14 at Heart of the Rockies in Fort Collins. A kick-off and welcome session is scheduled for Oct. 3. Register for the next grandparent class by contacting Jana Carson at 970-491-8204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The GRANDcares Project’s classes started with a five-year grant in 2015.
“Grandparents often do not focus on themselves and focus their attention on the needs of their grandchildren,” said Christine Fruhauf, CSU Extension specialist and professor in CSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “As a result of this class, grandparents have told us that for the first time they are taking better care of themselves and finding ways to cope with the challenges of raising grandchildren.”
One grandfamily’s story
One grandmother, who wants to be known only as “Carol” to protect her anonymity, has been raising her grandchildren for the past 11 years after social services removed the children from her daughter’s home due to excessive drug and alcohol use. While Carol accepted the children lovingly into her own home, she soon realized that simultaneously striving to be both grandparent and parent is a challenge. Carol works outside the home to financially support her family, putting aside her plans for retirement. She strives to support her grandchildren in school, helping them with homework and attending many meetings with teachers. Caring for the many needs of her grandchildren, combined with her own mounting health issues, often leaves Carol feeling utterly spent.
Carol’s experience is not unique. Grandparents across the country step up to care for their grandchildren full-time; nearly 3 million children in the United States are being raised by their grandparents. Grandparents help keep these children among family and out of the foster care system, but the situation creates vulnerabilities for both grandparents and grandchildren.
Grandparents become stressed and often depressed, and grandchildren often deal with trauma and the loss of their parents. These issues, among others, become exacerbated by the lack of resources available to support grandfamilies.
In addition, the project offers free webinars for service providers that help strengthen self-care and parenting skills in custodial grandparents, develop communication and leadership skills in grandchildren, and increase the ability of service providers to meet grandfamilies’ needs. For more information visit the GRANDcares Project website at http://grandcares.colostate.edu/.
Story by Jana Carson