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By Beth Greene, MSW – September 10, 2019

More grandparents than ever are stepping up to take care of and raise their grandchildren. There are many different reasons grandparents are assuming the role of caretaker.

It may be due to the death or absence of the children’s parents, the financial situation of the parents, or because of an unsafe home due to physical abuse or drug/alcohol abuse.

Raising grandchildren brings many rewards, including giving the children a sense of security, developing a deeper relationship with them, and being able to keep them with their family instead of possibly going into foster care. However, this can also be a very difficult venture in a grandparent’s life.

One big obstacle that grandparents often face is how it affects them financially, especially if there is only one person raising the children. Of the 2.7 million grandparents raising their grandchildren in the US, 1 million of them are being raised by a single grandmother.

Another obstacle grandparents face is finding access to proper resources for the children and for themselves. Children being raised by grandparents have unique needs that may require the use of therapists, school counselors and health care providers. Grandparents and grandchildren may benefit from support groups and individual or family therapy to share their feelings and gain support.

One event that has greatly contributed to the spike in so many grandparents raising grandchildren is the opioid epidemic. Parental substance use is the reason 40% of grandchildren go to live with a grandparent.

Children coming from homes where drug use is present are often exposed to traumatic events, abuse and neglect. This exposure often leads to behavioral issues in children. Statistics show that on average, children whose grandparents have custody of them are more likely to have behavioral and emotional difficulties than those being raised by their parents.

It is very important that grandparents raising grandchildren take care of themselves mentally, physically, and spiritually, as it is vital to their overall health and their ability to raise healthy children. It is also important to acknowledge and accept all feelings, both positive and negative.

It’s difficult to admit feelings such as resentment, guilt, fear, or doubt. It’s natural to have a mixture of feelings when unexpected responsibilities arise in life, but it doesn’t take away from the feelings of love for the grandchildren. It is also important to remember that the grandchildren will have mixed feelings too.

If you are a grandparent struggling to find support in your community, you can go to www.aarp.org. AARP’s website offers a comprehensive “Grandfamilies” guide with specific information on legal documents, finances, health insurance, education, childcare, and many other things you will need to know to protect your rights and maximize assistance in caring for your grandkids. Other helpful websites include:

If you are unsure what local therapists or support groups are available for you or your grandchildren, ask  a Youth First Social Worker at your child’s school (list at youthfirstinc.org) or your primary care physician. Support makes all the difference!

By Beth Greene, MSW, LSW – March 5, 2019

Technology is the norm in our society today. One in three children learns to use an electronic device before they learn to talk.

Does your child get angry when you mention that an electronic device could be taken away as a punishment? Technology addiction is not yet an official diagnosis; however, studies are publishing more and more research about the real effects of excessive time spent on electronic devices.

Studies show that not all technology has negative impacts. Kids and adults can often be in denial of their addiction and say things like, “I need this for school” or “It’s just a game.”  

There are signs of technology addiction and ways to prevent the addiction from causing behavioral issues at home and at school.

It is normal in today’s society to use electronic devices, video games, and social media. However, excessive use of electronics can create addiction-like behaviors that we must be aware of in an effort to prevent unhealthy dependence.

Some researchers have compared social media today to a modern-day playground for children. It is normal for a child to become upset when their playground is taken away and they are not permitted to use their electronics.

When electronic devices begin to cause extreme behavioral issues you may need to start making changes regarding the electronic use in your home.

These are few signs you can look for in determining if your child has developed an unhealthy dependence to technology:

  • Your child has decreased interest in other activities they previously enjoyed.
  • Your child has increased mood swings and argumentative behavior regarding their use of electronic devices.
  • Your child becomes angry over small things but quickly calms when they return to their device.
  • Your child has difficulty unwinding to go to sleep after utilizing electronics.
  • Your child has increased lying or devious behavior, such as hiding their devices and/or using them in bed without permission.
  • Your child hides in isolated places with their devices to avoid confrontation.

There are ways to control the use of electronics. The first thing to remember as a parent is that our children learn from our actions more than our words.

Take in to consideration how much time you are spending on your electronic devices. Are you showing your child ways to stimulate their minds away from electronics?

Some researchers recommend a 72-hour digital detox if you are concerned with your child or family’s excessive use of electronics. You can expect your children to be more irritable during this detox; however, they will transition if you provide consistency.

After the digital detox you can start implementing and enforcing more structured rules about the use of devices in your home. For example, you may choose to implement no electronic use until homework is finished, no devices during meals, no devices one hour before bed, and devices must be in parental possession when the kids are in bed for the night.

The rules in each home may vary, but creating guidelines and being consistent with those restrictions may be vital to your child’s sleep hygiene, mood, and well-being.