Time for Grandparents Program
Domnica says grandparents may be unprepared for the changes that come with becoming a grandparent carer – good and bad.
She says the Time for Grandparents Program, funded by the Queensland Government, offers fun and interesting activities for grandchildren and gives grandparents the opportunity for well-earned time out.
“If you are a part-time grandparent carer then the impacts on your life can be a joy as there is an increase in the number of services and social opportunities for grandparents to share with others and engage on a peer-peer level.
“There are grandparent playgroups and even general mainstream playgroups now welcome and encourage grandparents to participate.
“However, for full-time grandparents the decision to take on this role is enormous and the consequences are equally confronting. There is a total change of lifestyle, a financial burden and social impact.
“Many grandparents on the Time for Grandparents Program have described their situation as lonely and a sense of being completely exhausted so that even when they do have a chance to socialise, they want to use that time to rest and gain some energy.
“The Time for Grandparents Program is there to support and link grandparents together as well as offer financial support in some cases and ‘grandfamily’ camps where grandparents can access one-on-one support and also relax a little.”
Open and honest communication
Domnica says that as a grandparent carer it is very important to be open and honest with the children’s parents about your role and how to enforce rules and boundaries with the children.
“Open and honest communication about expectations and role clarification is hugely important. This will make it easier for everyone,” she says.
“There has been a lot of research into child development and information that was not readily available 20 years ago, now available at our finger-tips.
“There is a lot of information sharing and exchange that can occur and even engaging grandparents to source some of the information or resources can help bring the family closer and provide the child with a fantastic support base where there is consistency.
“Grandparents also have the advantage of years and experience so they can offer tips and insight into a child’s behaviour pattern especially if it’s a ‘mini-me’ of their child - and that happens a lot!
“There will be a great deal of parenting that we just can’t learn from books as every child is unique and has their own strengths and personality. This is where grandparents can really be the best support.
“The bond and openness between children and their grandparents means that if they are struggling, then there is always a safe person they can turn to for advice and support that as parents we can rely on to keep our children safe and on the right track.”
Dominca says children love and thrive on consistency when it comes to boundaries and discipline.
“It is universally accepted that grandparents will be more lenient with their grandchildren than they were with their own children. This can be because experience has helped them understand which battles are not worth fighting or that the bond is such that the children will be more likely to follow instructions from their grandparents so that they do not risk upsetting grandpa or grandma.
“This does not mean that they don’t have boundaries or discipline their grandchildren; it means that they may not do so as often as the parents. So how do we negotiate the boundaries we would like grandparents to enforce and what are we willing to relax on? This is such an individual family dilemma that needs to be discussed in a sensitive and open manner.
“Grandparents will be the first to support your decisions especially if it means that by supporting you they get better quality time with their grandchildren and their grandchildren thrive.”
The Grandparent Adviser Line
The Mirabel Foundation is an Australian charity assisting children who have been orphaned or abandoned due to their parent’s illicit drug use, many of whom are now in the care of grandparents.
Elizabeth McCrea, Advocacy and Support worker at Mirabel says Centrelink provides Grandparent Advisers who can often help grandparents navigate the complex system of government services.
The Grandparent Adviser Line is Freecall™ 1800 245 965. The advisers can book your appointments with social workers, multicultural service officers, indigenous customer service officers, and financial information service officers, or refer you to federal, state and community services.
“The grandparents can ring them and say ‘These are my circumstances. These are the children.’ It’s helpful if the grandparent has a letter from Child Protection to say the children are in their care and a copy of the order then the money can be transferred immediately,” Elizabeth says.
“If it’s an informal arrangement then Centrelink has to contact the parents and get them to acknowledge the arrangement. But through this process it’s one person they can talk to who can deal with all the complications.
“The Grandparent Advisor can also help them with Medicare numbers as well so grandparents can also get health care cards and access Family Benefit A & B.”
The Time for Grandparents Program Information line is a service for grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren in any capacity, especially informal care. Grandparents can call and remain anonymous and ask any questions from support as carers for themselves, activities for the kids or playgroups in their local area, child or family friendly venues and so on. The Time for Grandparents program also offers grandparents who are full-time carers of their grandchildren who are NOT receiving Foster or Kinship payments through the Department of Child Safety support with respite in various forms including paying for activities outside of day care or school hours and therapeutic camps.