Extension Educator, Family Life
As a Family Life Educator, I am asked for information on all types of topics involving families. The families of today are much more varied than years ago – single-parent families, blended families, step-families, and more and more grandparents that are raising grandchildren. Nationally, there are 5.4 million children under the age of 18 being raised by their grandparents – almost 102,000 of them in Illinois alone. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, including alcohol and drug abuse, neglect and/or abuse, parental incarceration, divorce, death or illness of a parent, teen pregnancy and unemployment. The stress of caring for these children can be very overwhelming, especially if the grandparent is older and dealing with personal health problems and/or limited income.
There are many issues that grandparents report as stressful and difficult in grand "parenting". Nearly 90% of the them cited that education was the top concern they had, finding some school policies to be barriers for grandparents trying to advocate for their grandchildren. Helping the children with their homework, understanding generational differences and communicating with the parents (their adult children) and agency professionals were also areas they had difficulties in. Practicing effective communication skills would go a long way in easing several of these issues, and are really helpful in any situation. Here are some tips for speaking clearly and listening carefully:
Practicing good communication skills can make a huge difference in the outcome of critical conversations any of us have, but particularly grandparents raising their grandchildren. University of Illinois Extension has a great website called "Parenting Again" at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/grandparents/ If grandparents go to this site and click on "newsletter archive" they will find lots of information designed to help those who are parenting the second time around. Topics like communication, discipline, nutrition, age-appropriate activities and helping a child in school are covered in the 31 issues of newsletters available to anyone raising a child.
For more information on this topic or other family life-related topics, contact Cheri Burcham at the University of Illinois Extension office at 801 N. Country Fair Drive in Champaign. She may also be reached by phone at 333-7672 or e-mail at email@example.com