Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
By: Wendy Ray

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO --They're called the golden years, your children are raised and you may be retiring soon. Things seem to be calming down, but that's not the case with everyone. More grandparents are raising their grandchildren. Tuesday, a special conference helped grandparents learn how to handle their growing households.

Wilma and John VanGennip are raising their 15-year old grandson, Darren. "His mother died of cancer at 41 and his dad died two years later," Mr. and Mrs. VanGennip say. The VanGennips are among the growing number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. Even though tragedy put them in this position, Amy Goyer with the AARP says there are several reasons more grandparents are turning into guardians. "We see a lot of substance abuse, mental illness, we also see divorce, and military deployment is also an issue right now," she says.

Goyer travels the country giving grandparents advice on how to better raise their grandchildren. It's a message that hits home to a lot of people. According to the AARP, there are more than 213,000 children living in grandparent headed households in Illinois. In Missouri, more than 77,000 children live with their grandparents and in Kentucky, there are more than 57,000 children in that situation.

The conference in Cape Girardeau Tuesday is giving grandparents advice on discipline, how to communicate with their grandchildren, and how to keep themselves healthy. Most importantly, it's teaching them the importance of a support system. "Reach out, open themselves to help, do not give up, they're doing the best they can," Goyer says. "We know they love their grandkids, that's the most important thing."

for AARP's grandparent website.