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Health & Parenting

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Grand Parenting?

Tips for staying sane when rearing your grandchildren.

Psychological Tolls

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.

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