The Heart of a Grandparent
Donna Gullatte, Regional Extension Agent, Madison County
The love of a grandparent is a special kind of love. Grandparents are usually the ones who say, “Yes!” when your parents say, “No!”
Grandparents give special hugs and there are special things that you can only do with them if you are lucky enough to still have your grandparents around. And, it’s a special day when you go to grandpa and grandma’s house because it’s not only a place of love, but a place of safety and special memories.
So, what happens when a child can no longer live in the comfort of their own home with their parents, or when their lives are turned upside down as a result of unforeseen circumstances? Grandparents are often there to pick up the pieces of a child’s life and to take on those added responsibilities they may have thought were long gone.
According to the 2010 census, there are nearly 8 million children living in households ran by grandparents or other relatives. An estimated 6 million reside with grandparents and the other 2 million live with other relatives. In Alabama, there are more than 148,000 children living with grandparents or other relatives and that number has risen over the years. Many of these children arrive on the front steps of relatives as a result of:
- Abandonment or neglect or a parent may not want a child to live with them
- Sexual assault against their own or perhaps another child or there is evidence of another type of abuse
- Mental disability or illness that is either terminal or renders one or both parents incapable of rearing a child
- Drug or substance abuse
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, through the Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs unit, offers the Grandparents and Relatives as Parents Programs, otherwise known as GRAND RAPP. Grand RAPP provides assistance through program support groups and educational opportunities that prepare parents, grandparents, and relatives to develop parenting skills for traditional and nontraditional parenting roles. Specifically, GRAND RAPP focuses on developing stronger parent-child relationships, managing stress, developing coping strategies, recognizing signs of drug use and other risky behavior, and identifying helpful local, state, and national resources. But it takes special people to offer a home to children that are not their own.
The GRAND RAPP support group in Jackson County, Alabama meets once a month at the CASA office and offer support throughout the good and bad times of their lives. Some members even volunteer their time at the CASA office helping others. I guess you could say that grandparents have a “heart” for giving. These grandparents really tug on the heart because of the love of their families despite any tribulations they have encountered.
It takes special people to offer a home to children that are not their own… that’s what makes grandparents and other relatives that care for children in their families extra special. Here is a poem that captures the “heart of a grandparents raising grandchildren.”
A Tribute to Grandparents Raising their Grandchildren
We would like to celebrate you for all you’ve done
For caring for your granddaughter and your grandson
You took on this awesome task that no one else could do,
Because no one loves and cares for your grandchild quite like you.
You had the courage to start all over again
Raising your grandchildren at an age when
You thought you might retire, travel and rest
But the children needed caregivers, and they needed the best.
Some came to you in pampers® and most in tears
Needing nurturing and someone who cares.
Others came as toddlers, exploring the world on the run
You couldn’t believe this happened – after you thought that you were done.
Still others came at school age, when they needed guidance and direction
Science may have you baffled but you are great at giving affection.
And some of you have teenagers, oh my, what can I say.
Just keep reminding yourself that they won’t stay this way.
We know it has not been easy – often quite a heavy load
And there have been many bumps along the road.
You’ve been misunderstood, labeled and denied the services you need
Often criticized and not recognized for your labor or your good deed.
But we are here to honor you who have done so much
To change the lives of children with your special touch.
We thank you grandparents: we thank you once, we thank you twice
And know you are appreciated for the rest of your life.
Thank you, grandparents.
© by Rolanda Pyle (Granted permission to reprint by author.)
AARP. (n.d.). GrandFacts: Alabama. Retrieved from http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/relationships/friends-family/grandfacts/grandfacts-alabama.pdf.
Photo: Jackson County Grandparents, Courtesy of Donna Gullatte