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Raising children again


Anyone with children can tell you that raising them is a challenge. Grandparents have already met that challenge once with their own children. But now many grandparents are called upon to meet it again with the next generation. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 4.5 million children are living in grandparent-headed homes. This is a 30 percent increase from 1990. Most grandparents raising grandchildren are between 55 and 64.

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Almost 25 percent are over 65. Also, a growing number are far more likely to be persons of color who are living in poverty. For these and other reasons, parenting a second time can be even harder. The grandparents are older than the first time they parented and may have less energy. Also, the reasons for having to parent a grandchild often involve traumatic events.

Why are grandparents raising so many U.S. children? According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), reasons include:

  • Drugs and alcohol problems in the home
  • Mental illness in the home
  • Parent(s) in jail
  • Death of a parent
  • Poverty in the home
  • Divorce of parents
  • Child abuse and neglect in the home
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Parent(s) living with HIV/AIDS
  • Domestic violence in the home
  • Military deployment of parent(s)

Grandmothers caring for or raising grandchildren suffer more stress and depression than grandmothers who aren't caregivers. These are older women who may have health needs of their own. So caring for a grandchild who may have health problems, developmental challenges, or an increased need for care creates more stress for these grandmothers.

The age of the grandchildren can be a factor, too. Younger children are more physically demanding. But, older children are often more emotionally and mentally demanding. You may be willing, and even eager, to raise your grandchildren. But no matter how much you love them, your life will change. Keep these ideas in mind:

  • Always put your physical and emotional health first. Keeping physically active, relaxing, eating healthy, well-balanced meals, limiting alcohol, making time for fun, and humor are all important.
  • Don't be embarrassed to ask for help. If you need support, find a local support group, religious community, or good friends who understand.
  • Find out what services are available for you and your grandchild in your community, including financial, legal, educational, and free or low-cost counseling.

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Benefits available

Public benefits available to grandparents and the children they raise vary from state to state. Benefits that may be available include:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Social Security
  • WIC Program – This special supplemental food program for women, infants, and children (WIC) can help you buy food for eligible grandchildren in your care. The child must be 5 years old or younger. He or she must also be at risk for poor nutrition. Visit the WIC website to find your state's toll-free number.
  • Medicaid
  • Guardianship subsidies – Some states have programs that give financial assistance to grandparents who are the legal guardian of a child. However, not all states provide this option. The National Center on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren provides a list of state support services and benefits available to you.
  • Legal rights – Many grandparents find they need legal help when making decisions about their grandchildren. If you can't afford a lawyer, try your local legal aid office, court clerk office, or law school clinic for help. You can also go to the American Bar Association website for a directory of legal aid offices in your area.

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More information on Raising children again

Read more from womenshealth.gov

  • Caregiver Stress Fact Sheet - This fact sheet provides tips for relieving the stress of caregivers, as well as types of support that are available.

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Content last updated: August 12, 2010.

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