Celebrating the impact of Colorado grandfathers

RBC I Whether a grandparent is offering temporary child care or has custody of their grandchildren because of extenuating circumstances, today’s grandparents are increasingly more involved in raising young children. In honor of National Grandparents Day on Sunday, Sept. 11, the Colorado Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Initiative commends Colo. grandfathers for the role they play in the lives of their grandchildren and offers some resources for them to utilize along the way.
According to a 2007 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 2.5 million grandparents have responsibility for the basic needs of one or more of their grandchildren. These grandparents represent about 40 percent of all grandparents whose grandchildren live with them. Nationwide, 6.2 million grandchildren under the age of 18 live with their grandparents.
 “For the thousands of grandfathers acting as dads in our state it is important to find ways to relate to their grandchildren,” said Dan Welch, fatherhood and family specialist with the Colorado Department of Human Services. “Serving as a role model and developing a true father/child relationship takes hard work and dedication on behalf of the grandfather. We want to recognize the impact these types of paternal relationships have on our children’s lives and provide grandfathers with the tools necessary to become successful parents.”
If you are a grandfather in a caregiving role you have made numerous sacrifices to provide a better life for your grandchildren. The following are tips from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Child Welfare Information Gateway that will help grandfathers provide the best possible care for their grandchildren while still preserving their own health and well being. Find these and other valuable resources for raising grandchildren at www.coloradodads.com.
Making the adjustment
Often, grandparents take on the responsibility of raising their grandchildren under stressful and unfortunate situations. Thus, you may have the added burden of caring for children who suffered abuse or neglect earlier in their lives. These children may feel insecure and afraid; they may be angry at their situation and even embarrassed by it. It will take time for them to feel safe and secure. You can encourage these good feelings and ease their adjustment to their new home in a number of ways.
• Set up a daily routine of mealtimes, bedtime and other activities so that the children have some predictability in their lives.
• Help your grandchildren to feel that they are “home” by making room for them and their belongings. Your home needs to be welcoming, safe and child-friendly.
• Work on communication skills. Talk to your grandchildren and make sure that the children know they can always talk to you.
• Practice positive discipline that emphasizes education, not punishment, and that rewards good behavior with praise.
• Set up a few rules and explain the rules to the children. Then, enforce them consistently.
• Find shared activities. Building new relationships can be difficult. Sometimes, it helps to find things that you can do with your grandchildren to nurture your relationship and to make them feel secure and happy in their new home.
• Read. Children love to hear stories and even older children may surprise you by sitting quietly as you read aloud.
• Get computer savvy. If you don’t have your own computer, use the one at the public library. The library may have classes or other free help for you. You’ll find lots of things that you and your grandchildren can do together on the computer, from games to school research.
• Join a group. There are many local support groups for grandparents raising grandchildren and a number of these groups also provide activities for children. You might also find welcoming groups at your place of worship or at local schools or the library.
• Take up a sport or other outdoor activity. Children of all ages need to be active. Physical activity will help your grandchildren develop a healthy lifestyle and can be an important stress reliever for you.
Remember to take care of yourself. Parenting can leave you feeling stressed, overwhelmed and unhappy. As a result you are not going to be able to provide the best care for your grandchildren. It’s important that you take care of yourself to not become overwhelmed by your parental responsibilities. Some suggestions are to:
• Find a support group—either a group specifically for grandparents raising grandchildren or some other support group where you can share your challenges with others who will understand.
• Talk to someone. This could be a friend or relative or a professional, such as a counselor, family doctor or someone at your church or temple. Unburdening yourself can be a stress reliever.
• Take a break. A short time away from your grandchildren may give you some time to relax. Look for a trusted adult who can babysit or take over while you’re out.
• Participate in a fatherhood/parenting class. A class may help you feel more comfortable with your status as a caregiver for young children. It will also provide resources in the form of your instructor and the other students in the class.
• Learn to say “no.” You don’t have time to do everything. Learn to prioritize and eliminate the unnecessary tasks in your life.