GRG (Grandparents Raising Grandkids) Families: More Than Just Free Babysitting

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 02 March 2011

As of the 2000 Census, there were 2.4 million grandparents responsible for the care of their children’s children; some of you may even know people who are raising great-grandchildren (I know at least one family who has committed to this challenging task).

Sometimes Nanny and Pop-Pop are just stepping in to lend a hand to parents who are working long hours, traveling for business, or perhaps renovating a home. There are probably dozens of arrangements out there, ranging from a few hours of “free babysitting” a month to a daily, scheduled commitment to a full-time, 24-7/365 primary caregiver.

Regardless of the reason (i.e. drug abuse, incarceration, medical necessity, death), Grandma-turned-Mama is not an easy part to play, even though they can draw from a deep well of parenting experience. There are certainly advantages and benefits to being in this position; as my friend who is raising her great-granddaughter has pointed out: “We all take naps at the same time,” she says, “And because we’re retired, we can focus entirely on her care. We’re not fixing up our house, taking kids to soccer practice or piano lessons, or juggling other tasks/responsibilities.” She also believes that there are benefits to her great-granddaughter’s character development, saying, “She is very loving, gentle, and comfortable around older people, and she’s very polite too.”

Now, this family may not be juggling stressful jobs, home renovations, or navigating the storms of the teen years, but the reality is this: they are in their mid-70’s and are facing personal health challenges that certainly make caring for an active, energetic 2½ -year-old beyond exhausting. Thankfully, they have the support and help of their adult children, and my husband and I have clocked a few babysitting hours there too. They’re managing the role with grace and love, but like life & parenting at any age, there are good days and bad days.

If you’re new to the role of a grandparent raising grandkids, in the midst of it, or facing a potential change in the future which might mean a title transfer from Granddad to Dad, check out these resources:

USA.gov/Topics/Grandparents.shtml – On this comprehensive site you’ll find just about everything but the kitchen sink when it comes to raising grandchildren.

Raisingyourgrandchildren.com/ – This site, which includes a blog, is maintained by Karen Wright, who has personal experience with raising grandchildren.

Childwelfare.gov/preventing/supporting/resources/grandparents.cfm – On this site, there are links to several other great resources, like AARP’s Grandparent Information Center and an outstanding organization called Generations United.

Extension.org/pages/Grandparents_Raising_Grandchildren_-_Doubly_Stressed_Triply_Blessed – Here’s a well-named primer from Penn State University, with video clips and tons of helpful tips and information for GRG (Grandparents Raising Grandchildren) families.

Sandwichink.com/- We couldn’t leave out one of our favorites, SandwichINK. Kaye Swain’s site is for members of the Sandwich Generation who are balancing the responsibilities of caregiving for aging parents and babysitting the grandkids. She offers great advice for both sides of the spectrum.

Your turn: Are you a grandparent raising grandkids/great-grandkids? Share your experiences here.

-Michelle Seitzer

There are 5 Comments about this post

  1. gayle byrne says,

    So important for both the children and the GRANDS that are raising them, to know they are not alone!!! For a myraid of reasons there are over 6.5 million children whose parents are unable or unwilling to care for them – that’s 1 out of 12. My sweet granddaughter is one of them and raising her is what prompted me to write SOMETIMES IT’S GRANDMAS AND GRANDPAS NOT MOMMIES AND DADDIES. Told from the child’s point of view this picture book is a tender, reassuring glimpse into the life of one GRANDFAMILY. Perfect to read with a little one cuddling in your lap.


    on 03 March 2011 / 1:17 PM

  2. Crystal says,

    This is a great topic, and one that often doesn’t get a lot of attention. I know I appreciate the time I got to spend with my maternal grandparents, growing up with them and my parents on my grandparents’ farm.
    This issue is also one of the things that make being in a military family difficult, because often grandparents are far away from the family, and there’s less support for an already stressed family.


    on 03 March 2011 / 1:25 PM

  3. Wow, when you put it in terms of 1 out of 12, it certainly gives a new perspective! You’re right, it’s important for both the children and the grands to know that they are not alone. That book sounds wonderful – is it available on your website? Thanks for stopping by the blog and sharing your comments, Gayle. Enjoy your sweet granddaughter!


    on 08 March 2011 / 12:31 PM

  4. You’re right, Crystal, it doesn’t get a lot of attention, which is surprising given the numbers (1 in 12, as Gayle shared!). I agree – the time I had with my maternal grandparents in my growing up years was so very special and I will treasure it always. As a baby, I lived in the basement apartment of their house, and when we moved to PA, they were right up the street. I bet growing up on a farm with your grandparents was an amazing experience! You should write about it on your blog! As to your comment about military families, yes, good point. Have you heard of the United Through Reading program? It was designed to bridge those gaps (in military families, in long-distance grandparent families, and families in transition – for example, family members in prison) in a beautiful way – through the experience of sharing a book together. Check it out if you don’t already know about it: http://www.unitedthroughreading.org/. Thanks for stopping by the blog and sharing your comments, Crystal. I appreciate your support!


    on 08 March 2011 / 12:37 PM

  5. [...] talked about the numbers before (check out this post, GRG Families: More Than Just Free Babysitting for the specifics), but meeting Dori and reading about Sam Evans, a recent recipient of [...]


    on 16 February 2012 / 12:02 PM


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