Tips for staying sane when rearing your grandchildren.
Bringing up grandkids can take a psychological toll as well. According to a
study in the November 1999 issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Social
Sciences evaluating nearly 1,800 grandparents, depression is more common
among grandmothers who parent than those who don't, but not so among caregiving
grandfathers. But overall, the researchers note, the effects on well-being they
found were relatively small. One factor causing depression among grandmothers
who mother is their tendency to focus more on the needs of their grandchildren
than on their own physical and emotional health, says Lillian Carson, D.S.W.,
L.C.S.W., a Santa Barbara psychotherapist. Isolation plays a role, too, she
says, because these grandmothers may feel separated from friends whose lives
are very different.
Solutions for the Stress
To reduce stress and stay healthy, keep up a schedule of regular medical
checkups and ask your doctor for stress-reduction tips such as getting regular
exercise. Ask about assistive devices such as motorized stair chairs and canes.
Consider hiring a baby-sitter for a few hours a week.
Take advantage of resources tailored to grandparents who parent. AARP's
Grandparent Information Center, (202) 434-2296, provides information along with
referrals to 650 support groups. One member is Emma Belluomini, 62, who is
raising her five-year-old great-granddaughter in a small Northern California
town with her husband, Paul, 67. Group members have been supportive as the
Belluominis have grappled with the decision of when and how to tell the little
girl, who has never seen her parents, that her natural parents did not want the
responsibility of raising her.
"We know that we are going to have to let her know what happened,"
Emma Belluomini says. "We're pretty scared about that. We don't want it to
change her or affect her. She is such a happy child." With the group, she's
sure they'll find an effective solution. Like other grandparents who parent,
Belluomini has learned there is strength in numbers -- and workable solutions
if she reaches out.
Stephen Gregory has been a journalist for 10 years and has
worked for such publications as the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego
Union-Tribune, and U.S. News & World Report.