Some of our fondest memories growing up involve grandparents—the smell of fresh baked pies, big family dinners and lively rounds of board games. I certainly wouldn’t trade anything for that time together or all of the lessons learned.
Times have changed of course, and Americans live longer, commute easier and faster, and technology allows us to stay in touch instantly by phone, email, and even video. The traditional grandparent-child relationship also has changed.
Today, more than six million children in the United States are being raised by grandparents, a dramatic increase in the last 20 years. In Oklahoma, more than 57,000 or 6 percent of all children live in grandparent-headed households. There are only a handful of states with a higher rate than ours, which is attributed to the shocking number of mothers in this state who are incarcerated and/or who are substance-abusers.
While the role of grandparent has changed through the years, senior Oklahomans are an even more essential part of families and it is important as ever we honor them.
A special day has been set aside to celebrate. Sunday, September 13, is National Grandparents Day. It has been observed annually on the first Sunday following Labor Day since 1978.
The day was first proclaimed by President Jimmy Carter and founded by Marian McQuade, a West Virginia housewife to honor grandparents, give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and help children become aware of the strength and guidance older people can offer.
Here are some helpful reminders (from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) for grandparents raising grandchildren that are also great for caregivers of all types:
Ø Daily routines for meals, bedtime or other activities help everyone.
Ø Children need to know that they can always talk to you about problems they have.
Ø Doing things such as reading, walking and playing let children know you value your time with them.
Ø And, don’t forget to take care of yourself by attending a support group, enrolling in a parenting class and taking breaks to relax.
Resources for “grandfamilies” are also available online at www.aarp.org, www.okdhs.org and www.usa.gov/Topics/Grandparents.shtml.
Whether celebrating together as a small group or at a large family reunion, I hope all Oklahomans will honor grandparents for all that they have done and all they continue to do.
Read to a child – the benefits last a lifetime!