Support for seniors raising grandchildren


A recent Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Group meet-and-greet function. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A recent Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Group meet-and-greet function. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Most seniors are free to enjoy the company of friends, travel and retirement.

But sadly for a growing number in Canterbury, life inadvertently throws them a curve ball, which can see them looking after young children or even babies.

Due to circumstances beyond their control, they have become parents again at a time far removed from when they had their children.

They become the principal caregivers to their grandchild, while coping with the sometimes dire or fraught circumstances which caused the children’s upheaval.

Where do they go for schooling information, primary medical care, financial assistance or even to answer any of the 101 questions about modern childcare that they are now facing daily?

Community Wellbeing North Canterbury Trust’s clinical operations leader Julie Best says it is often a lonely job raising grandchildren but the the trust is there to help.

‘‘Some grandparents are in their late 70s or 80s and suddenly they have to take care of a newborn baby or teenager.

‘‘It’s tricky for them and they don’t know where to turn to for support, all while trying to be substitute parents for kids used to a completely different lifestyle.’’

She says grandparents soon find their social lives disappearing as friends don’t understand why they can’t come out anymore to play golf, ride or socialise.

Then there is the reason behind this sudden change of circumstances and how the grandparents try their best to shield their grandchildren, all while trying to support whichever of their children is also in trouble.

Marcus and Vicki have custody of two grandchildren - and described them as two ‘‘full-on’’ boys aged 11 and 12.

Both have been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

Marcus and Vicki took custody of the children 10 years ago when they were infants.

If they had not obtained custody, the children would have been placed in foster care.

They already have four children, two of whom still live at home, along with the grandchildren in their care.

Joining Community Wellbeing’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren support group in 2020, Vicki says they now know they are not on their own and there are many others in the same situation.

‘‘You are doing something that you didn’t expect to do, but knowing that other people are doing it and this little group of people can get together and share stories of what has been going on is a big help,’’ Marcus says.

The Community Wellbeing Grandparents Raising Grandchildren support group often has up to 14 people attending the meetings, held several times during the school terms.