WMU News

New resources available for custodial grandparents

Sept. 5, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- For more than 2.4 million adults nationwide, Grandparents Day--celebrated this year on Sunday, Sept. 7--is every day.

And with more adoring grandmothers and doting granddads assuming roles as fulltime parents to their grandchildren, multigenerational families increasingly are turning to schools, public agencies and child experts for help---the kind of help offered in "Second Time Around," a new set of guidebooks and videotapes created by two Western Michigan University professors.

Family finances, transportation problems, homework hassles and modern-day discipline are just a few of the areas in which grandparents need help as they step in to parent again, say co-researchers Dr. Andrea B. Smith and Dr. Linda L. Dannison. But grandparents are not alone. Grandchildren and those who work with them need more resources, too.

"As a society we provide respite care, adult education, support groups, best practices forums and networking," says Dannison, "but we're missing the teachable moment if we don't think about the children or the professionals who deal with them, especially teachers who have little in terms of formal resources for working with children of custodial grandparents."

"Second Time Around: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren" and "Grand Ideas for Grand Kids" are comprehensive curriculum guides for facilitators of grandparent and grandchildren support groups. The guides and two companion videos, "The Custodial Grandparent Family" and "Custodial Grandchildren Tell Their Stories," stem from extensive research conducted by Smith, an associate professor of teaching, learning and leadership, and Dannison, chairperson of WMU's Department of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Their "Second Time Around" series couldn't be more timely. From 1990 to 1998, the ranks of custodial grandparents swelled by more than 53 percent, according to a recent journal article by Smith and Dannison published by the National Association of Social Workers. In 2000, the U.S. Census found that of the 2.4 million grandparents raising grandchildren, slightly more than half are still in the work force. Nationally, about 5.6 million youngsters live with a grandparent.

The curriculum guides weave in-depth research with programming for special group activities, life management techniques, family-friendly recipes, opportunities for play and other useful tools unique to grandparents raising grandchildren. The two videos, created in collaboration with broadcast engineer Daniel Bracken of WMU's Department of Media Productions, explore the strengths and challenges of such families. On tape, five grandparents and a dozen others, ages 14 to 84 and raised by their grandparents, share their stories.

"The grandchildren talk about how the grandparents have affected their lives, and surprisingly, how they are looking forward to parenting," says Dannison. "The adults talk about how they parent differently the second time around. They discuss hard times, how customs may be different now than when they were raising their own children, and how at this stage, the grandchild might not get the trip to Disneyland."

Through their research, Smith and Dannison found that grandparents and grandchildren are grappling with weighty issues. Financial hardships, academic struggles, communicating with teachers, embarrassment, anger, guilt, trust, effective discipline--even deciding what to feed grandchildren--are just a few areas the two experts address.

The "Second Time Around" resources, available through WMU, are ideal for educators, family life experts and in-service health care professionals interested in creating a grandparent-friendly environment. The grandparents guide is available for $75 and "Grand Ideas for Grand Kids" is $50. The videos are $50 each or can be purchased as a set for $75. To order, call (269) 387-3704. For more information contact Gail H. Towns at (269) 387-8428.

Media contact: Gail Towns, 269 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

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