Research shows that relatives such as grandparents are very willing to step in and raise the children in their family when parents are unable to parent. Grandparents have deep love for the children and would prefer to have the children remain in the family and not go to an unfamiliar foster home. However, raising your relative can be incredibly difficult. You may feel exhausted, impatient and alone. Taking care of yourself is critical– so you can be the best caregiver you can be.
The following excellent suggestions are adapted from a brochure published by Michigan State University School of Social Work Kinship Care Resource Center.
Social support: Do fun things with your friends and their children. Play dates like this will help your children create new friendships, and they will help you maintain your own friendships. This will give you time to talk with other caregivers, receive advice, or just catch up.
Writing: This is a great activity that will help a stressed caregiver express feelings and frustrations. Older children can write in a journal while you write in yours. Younger children can have their own journal to draw pictures or practice their letters. This is a wonderful activity as a routine before bedtime.
Gardening: Keep a small garden, whether it’s a flower garden outside or an indoor herb garden. It will teach the children responsibility to help you maintain it, and it will give you a sense of satisfaction when you see the fruits of your labor.
Take a power nap: A quick 10 to 30 minute nap will recharge you more than you think. If your children go down for an afternoon nap, catch one yourself also!
Breathing techniques: Slow, deep breaths will lower your heart rate and make you feel more relaxed. Breathing in a paper bag when extremely distressed or nervous will also help calm you down.
Exercise: Physical activity releases endorphins in the brain, a substance that makes you feel good, relieves tension, and acts as a painkiller. Taking a walk with your children to a park and playing an outside game with them are both great ways to get exercise and spend time with the children. If the children are young, push them in a stroller.
Fresh air: Try eating your lunch at work outside or enjoy dinner in your backyard. The outside environment will be refreshing, and good weather may put you in a better mood. A simple picnic or barbeque will be a fun change of scenery for both you and your children.
Stay organized: Keep a calendar at home to organize the family’s commitments. Keep a list of all the numbers and contacts for your children and the people and organizations you contact for thief support. A log with dates, names, phone numbers and brief descriptions of conversations will help you keep track of the sometimes complicated processes and procedures you encounter. Make copies of all important documents and store legal documents, such as birth certificates and social security cards, in a safe place.
Create a chart for the children to remember and keep track of their chores. This also helps to divide work evenly. Always put bills to be paid in the same spot and mark the envelope with their due date or put it on the calendar. Once you ﬁnd a system of organization at home that works for you, you will need to keep track of fewer appointments and reminders in your head.
Meditation: Whether silently at home or in the form of prayer at your local church, meditation is a great way to clear your mind. Find a comfortable space, listen to relaxing music, and sit quietly for 15 minutes.
Massage: Rub pressure points on your neck, head, hands, and arms to relieve tension. If appropriate, involve your children to help them relieve stress too by creating a massage train. Each person massages the hand of the person next to him or her for a few minutes.
Yoga: Children may not be able to perform the same workout as you, but you will still be promoting a healthy lifestyle to them if they are around you while you are doing it. Yoga helps with ﬂexibility, stress relief, and is a healthy form of exercise.
Adult Recreation: Research local recreation centers to ﬁnd classes and activities offered for adults. Child care is often provided during adult classes. Try these local organizations:
- Clark County Parks & Recreation
- Las Vegas YMCA
- Clark County Community Centers
Sources: Evenson RJ, Simon RW. Clarifying the Relationship Between Parenthood and Depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. December 2005.