Grandparents: Your Role is Changing

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on September 4, 2019

You want to be the best grandparent you can be. But what may have earned you the title Grandparent of the Year 20 years ago is different from what’s expected of you today.

Across the country, 2.7 million grandparents are stepping in for parents—a seven percent increase since 2009.

In Virginia, about 70,000 children are being raised by their grandparents, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Resources for Grandfamilies
NewFound Families Virginia
New River Valley Agency on Aging
Virginia Office for Aging Services - Kinship Care
Carilion Clinic: Grandparenting Today Class

“There’s even a term for them: kinship families,” said Amanda M. Tiffany, D.O., a pediatrician with Carilion Children’s Pediatric Medicine – Daleville.

“‘Grandfamilies’ is another term used by agencies who support grandparents who take on this big responsibility,” she said.

For many grandparents, it’s been years since they had children in their home, so baby-proofing the house is the first thing recommended.

Babies should sleep on their backs, not their stomachs, for safety.

This means locking up medicines and making sure the house is safe for kids to explore. If you can, get down on the floor and see what babies or children might find interesting, like a tall floor lamp they could push over.

When it comes to sleep, practices have definitely changed. Grandparents who put their own kids to sleep on their tummies now need to follow current research that recommends putting them on their backs.

“Recommendations have been updated in a variety of areas,” said Dr. Tiffany. They include:

  • Wait to introduce solid food at six months
  • Do not give water to babies younger than six months
  • Do not put cereal in baby bottles to help babies sleep; use a spoon instead
  • Make sure kids wear helmets when riding a bike or scooter—anything on wheels
  • Place car seats facing the rear for kids up to two years old

It’s also important that grandparents and parents be on the same page, and that rules in their homes be similar.

Grandparents often like to spoil their grandkids with sweet treats, for instance, but too much sugar is not healthy.

One thing that will never go out of fashion, though, is showing love for your grandkids. Every child needs that emotional security and bond.

After all, have you ever heard of a child who was hurt by getting too much love? 

If you are about to raise a grandchild, search "grandparenting" on our wellness calendar for our Grandparenting Today class. The next one is November 11.  Additional resources are also available throughout Virginia, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families  and Medicaid, and those listed above.