Raising the grandchildren

Monday, August 27, 2007

After a summer break, the Grandparent's Support Group regrouped for another year of learning, sharing, supporting and revisiting things they already know about raising children.

The group members, who meet at the University of Missouri Extension office in Jackson, are faced with the special challenges of raising children other than their own and get support from the group. The nine members may not exactly agree when the support group began, but they are all in agreement about the importance of playing an active and supportive role in their grandchildren's lives.

Donna Phillips of Perryville, Mo., said she joined the grandparents support group a year and a half ago when she was at a breaking point. "They had [a grandparents support group] at Perryville for about six months and we've been coming here about a year. We have been helped by listening to other grandparents and expressing how things go and how to deal with problems."

Behavioral issues

Donna and her husband, Ray, faced issues of defiant behavior with their granddaughter, whom they have been raising since she was 3 1/2 years old. Now she is 11, and they are glad to see the behavior fading from their grandchild's life. "She is getting better and growing up."

The couple became guardians when their granddaughter was taken from her parents because of neglect. Their son is developmentally slow. "Rather than have her in foster care, we took care of her," said Donna.

The group, led monthly by University of Missouri human development specialist Mary Gosche, takes part empowering programs, time for sharing and activities outside of the regularly scheduled meeting. Baby sitting is available and, when suitable, grandchildren accompany their grandparents on trips.

The most recent meeting kicked off with a "Building Assets" program by 4-H youth specialist Donna Taake. The program was based on research from the Search Institute, an independent not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote healthy children, teens and communities. The heart of the institute's work is the framework of 40 Developmental Assets, which are positive experiences and personal qualities that young people need to grow up healthy, caring and responsible.

Taake explained that many of the assets were things "we have all known in our gut all along. Revisiting them on paper gives us the chance to get back to the basics we were raised with."

Assets for development

Receiving support from other adult relationships is one of the 40 developmental assets that promote healthy, caring and responsible young adults.

Taake highlighted assets on the list, encouraging discussion. She said it was the first time she'd seen the religious external asset listed in writing before. According to the Search Institute, a young person's constructive use of time included weekly time promoting spirituality or at activities in a religious institution.

Another asset, under commitment to learning, was the benchmark of reading for pleasure weekly.

No longer feel alone

Taake was surprised by the importance of time a young person spends at home to limit the time he or she spends out with friends with "nothing special to do."

Attaining all 40 developmental assets could happen in an ideal situation.

"Research is great, and I know this is true, but you can put all the positive influences you want before a young person, but still they're the ones who make the choices," said Taake.

Support through the group helps the grandparents feel they are not alone. Opportunities for education and suggestions for future programs are encouraged.

An upcoming "Grand Family Conference" from 9:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at New McKendree United Methodist Church Celebration Center was announced. The featured speaker, Cape Gir­ar­deau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle, will discuss recent changes in the law concerning adults in charge of premises when alcohol is available to minors and grandparents or parents whose children are in trouble with the criminal system.

Other topics of interest include legal issues, children and illegal drugs, encouraging children's spiritual development and issues centered around health.

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension. 133

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