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Building ‘Grand’ Fathers

By ALETHEA PRICE

Boyle County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

Many of us have fond memories of our grandfathers… the stories, the candy, the fishing lessons and life lessons we learn while visiting them are things we treasure and carry with us throughout our lives. But as family dynamics have changed, more and more grandfathers are finding the old adage of “spoil them rotten and send them home” no longer a reality. In fact, around 2.4 million grandparents across the United States are now raising their grandchildren.

Men are as caring and nurturing with the children as women and the same holds true for grandfathers who care for their grandchildren full time. Grandfathers play a vital role in the lives of these children because they provide them with support, security and encouragement. Time spent with grandparents can help support positive development and build self confidence in children.

When I asked Phil Rowland, grandfather of 3, what is his favorite part about being a grandfather he said “The simplicity of the relationship, and the hugs — the love they return because we first loved them.” Mr. Rowland doesn’t believe in the spoiling them and sending them home approach to grand-parenting. He said, “The best times are when you have them overnight or 24/7 on vacation with everyone for a week, then two weeks to recover. They will wear you out.”

Grandfathers who are retired may have more available time to spend with children. They can use this time to talk with and listen to their grandchildren and reassure them they are loved and are important family members. Encouraging a relationship between a grandchild and their grandfather is mutually beneficial. Retired grandfathers have a new sense of purpose when playing an active role in a child’s life. They can help provide a link to the past by sharing stories and reminiscing with their grandchildren. This helps children make connections between the past and the present.

At a time when many younger families are dissolved by divorce, it’s not necessarily true with older generations. Grandfathers in this situation have a unique opportunity to show their grandchildren mature, adult love exists and is attainable by holding hands, hugging and kissing their spouse in front of their grandchildren. This is a good example of how grandparents can be positive role models for children who may not see positive, healthy relationships modeled in their home.

In many cases, grandparents are faced with the responsibility of raising their grandchildren or other relatives. Many grandfathers feel ill prepared, scared and worried about parenting a second time. At the same time, they are eager to provide the loving, caring and supporting environment their grandchild needs. Here are some are some helpful tips:

• Seek out support groups. These groups provide a place for people to give and receive emotional and practical support and the opportunity to exchange information.

• Take care of yourself physically and seek help from friends and family when necessary. Try to get plenty of sleep, eat a nutritious diet, exercise daily, and practice mindfulness

• Be an example of healthy aging.

Families First family resource and youth services offers a Relatives As Parents support group for anyone raising children in our community. This group meets each month starting Nov. 27th, Dec. 18th, Jan. 29th, Feb. 26th, March 26th from 12:30pm- 2:00pm. Contact Anna Houston at 859-936-8564 for more information on the support group.

For more information on parenting grandchildren and/or healthy aging, contact the County Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences at the Boyle County Extension Office. Email me at a.price@uky.edu