Grandparents, our childcare heroes

Published: 19th June 2018

Grandparents are often the unsung heroes in our children’s lives, they love them deeply, they can discipline them in ways that we often can’t and they are always passing on their endless wisdom. 

But perhaps it’s time they are recognised as the champions they are, with the rise of grandparents who are thrown into the role of child rearing, long after they officially ended that role with their own kids.

Grandparent Guardians

According to the most recent statistics at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2003, there were 22,500 Australian families in which grandparents were the guardians of their grandchildren (31,100 children aged 0-17 years).

While it’s not unusual for grandparents to take care of grandchildren on an occasional or temporary basic, these statistics show the number of elderly people who are the actual guardians of the children – not just ‘babysitters.’

There are a variety of reasons why some grandparents end up being the official guardian but it often comes down to there having been trauma of some kind within the family, often involving alcohol or drug abuse, mental illness, death or divorce.

It also means some grandparents have retired and are on a low income, or they might face challenges with physical capabilities – we all know how exhausting it can be raising children of all ages.

Single Parent Support

When mother of three Cassie found herself divorced after ten years of marriage, she was shocked to learn her ex-husband was being posted overseas and unable to share child custody with her.

“Divorce meant that I had to go back to work part time, but the only way I was able to do this was with my mother’s help. She is 73 and while she is physically and mentally in great shape, looking after my kids three days a week was not exactly her idea of a relaxing retirement!” Cassie says.

“Mum took the role beautifully but I know that she finds it very tiring and I try to reduce her workload by making sure she doesn’t have to help out with any ‘after school activities’. I know she looks after my kids perfectly but she also hopes she’s not still helping me when she is 80!”

Grandparent Support Groups

There are a number of organisations that support grandparents who find themselves playing a big role in raising their grandchildren, such as GRaKCA, which stands for Grandparents, Relative and Kinship Carer Alliance. It’s an advocacy group made up of support group leaders, service providers and grandparent carers.

GRaKCA works to raise awareness within the community and all levels of government regarding the social justice issues associated with the increasing demands on grandparents raising grandchildren. The group also lobbies for the fair and equitable treatment of grandparents who have become a carer in the latter stages of their lives.

Each Australian state has similar groups to help grandparents navigate their role as a carer and groups like Mission Australia have regular support group sessions for grandparents too.

Finding The Balance

Parenting the second time around is fraught with challenges – things have changed since the grandparents were looking after their own young children. On top of the challenges with the kids, there’s a range of other issues related to the age of the grandparent.  As Cassie says, her mother is a ‘young 70 year old’ but even she struggles to keep up with her three year old grandson if he decides to run amok in the playground or shopping centre!

“There are days when my mum has a designated ‘home day’ simply so she doesn’t have to run around after the kids too much! She’s an incredible person in our lives but I don’t want her risking her health and I also realise that she is retired and deserves some peace as well.”

Adopt a Granny

For those who no longer have their parents around, or who live away from their families, ou can always consider adopting a grandparent. There's a number of organisations, such as Find a Grandparent, which introduce families to elderly members of the community, who are looking to become surrogate grandparents. If you find a great match, it can be so rewarding for everyone involved - think of it as the ultimate modern family.  



Grandparents and families come in all shapes and sizes, and we want to take a moment thank you all, for all that you do! xx


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