A reader who is a grandmother posted her comments yesterday about filling some of her post-retirement hours by helping her work-from-home son care for his children. An increasing number of Boomer grandparents are assuming greater care-giving and financial responsibilities for their grandchildren. Research indicates that more than 2.9 million are raising 4.5 million grandchildren. This is particularly true in homes where there is a single parent, chronic illness, or both parents work.

There has also been media attention lately highlighting just the opposite – that is, grandchildren caring for their grandparents. Smaller families, more women working and aging parents living longer all impact this paradigm shift. There is the need to call on the third generation to help out and provide companionship as well as do chores such as the shopping and cleaning.

According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study, 8% of informal caregivers are adult grandchildren. Some want to make the workload easier for their parents. Others like to reciprocate for the many ways in which their grandparents cared for them when they were younger. There are also hidden benefits – grandchildren find that they have skills they never knew about and they enjoy learning more about their grandparents’ history as well as their own roots.

With the varied pressures on today’s family, this reverse trend is likely to continue. Be a role model for your grandchildren and leave footprints that are worth following. See your relationship with them as an investment in the future. The opportunity to give suppport and comfort as you spend time together can be personally gratifying for everyone – now and later.

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