National Grandparents Day is a special day to celebrate and honor grandparents for their love and presence in the lives of their grandchildren, as well as a time to showcase the strength and role of older adults in the lives of families. Grandparents Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of September after Labor Day and this year will be on Sunday, September 11. The number of grandparents continues to grow and the impact grandparents have on children can be important in so many ways.
National Grandparents Day was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. Each year since 1978, the United States President is requested to issue a proclamation recognizing this important day.
The Area Agency on Aging Family Caregiver Support Program uses this occasion to acknowledge and support grandparents raising their grandchildren in North Carolina and across the United States.
Grandparents/relatives raising grandchildren from all walks of life are taking on the role of parent at a time in their lives when retirement or travel may have been their original path. Each year the number of grandparents taking on the role of a parent continues to grow.
Four years ago Mary Carlton adopted her three granddaughters, Abigail, Adamari, and Priscilla who are now ages 11, 13 and 16 . Mary could not bear the thought of her granddaughters being separated from each other or her, during a challenging time almost 10 years ago. There were times when she worried how she was going to be a parent again, but she was eager to share, that taking on the role of primary caregiver to her granddaughters has been immensely rewarding. Financially, things have been challenging, on a retirement income, but the rewards have far outweighed the tough times.
Grandparents are often the first to step-up and take on the role of parent when their adult children are unable to raise their children for various reasons. In the new role of parenting a second time around, grandparents are influencing the lives of their grandchildren, which may not have been as great an impact otherwise. Given this commitment, they are taking on the primary responsibility to provide their grandchildren with a loving and stable environment.
Becky Aldridge has cared for her grandchildren Preston and Keely who are now age 7 and 5 for the past five years. The children are now adopted, and Becky says while things have been challenging, she is blessed to have them. “When I first had them with me, I knew I had to keep them on their routine and give them as much normalcy as possible. Keeping my focus on my grandchildren has kept me from worrying about my aches, pains and depression. They keep you young. It was challenging in the beginning, but is definitely rewarding.”
Support for grandparents and kinship caregivers is vital to help families know they are not alone in their circumstances and that others are going through and have gone through similar lifestyle changes. Mary and Becky attend a support group each week specifically supporting grandparents and kinship caregivers. This program, through Burke County Public School FUTuRES Program, offers two weekly support groups for families to attend.
The Family Caregiver Support Program is dedicated to helping grandparents who are parenting a second time around. Mary Mitchell, Family Caregiver Support Specialist with WPCOG Area Agency on Aging, expresses the importance of recognizing and supporting grandparents during this time of year. “Grandparents who find themselves thrust onto a new path of being both grandparent and parent have a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of their grandchildren. It is the love, commitment and security from these grandparents that makes the difference in the lives of these children. This stability and lots of hugs go a long way to impact these children and their futures, and we support the efforts of grandparents and families on this important journey.”
“Across America, grandparents are loving pillars of comfort and support. After a lifetime of giving back to their families and communities, grandmothers and grandfathers continue to offer compassion and wisdom to their loved ones and inspire us to be our best selves. On National Grandparents Day, we honor the sacrifices they make and continue to show our affection and appreciation for them.” President Barack Obama, 2015 Presidential Proclamation, National Grandparents Day