My youngest child was recently married and now my husband and I are officially empty nesters. For the last 24-plus years, we have had at least one child living with us. Raising a child to become a self-sufficient adult requires a huge amount of time and effort. I can say it has been worth every sleepless night, orthodontia payment, and frozen moment in a football stadium.
My husband and I have plans now that it is just the two of us again. While we both have several years before retirement and are busy serving our community, we anticipate what the future may hold for us. Currently, we do not have any grandchildren, but we are hopeful and, in the meantime, enjoying life having independent, adult children. But sometimes life throws curve balls and in the future, we could find ourselves parenting the second time around.
In 2021, 36,747 Arkansas grandparents were responsible for raising their grandchildren. Grandparents may find themselves parenting again for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is from the death of parent(s), substance abuse, health issues or incarceration. Whatever the reason, caregiving for children has many challenges.
Often, people who find themselves as caregivers are still working or if already retired might need to go back to work to supplement their income. The first step if employed, would be to let your employer know about your new responsibilities. Your work's human resources office might have special work arrangements that can be beneficial. As a parent, you are probably already familiar with how hard it can be to balance a career and family but parenting the second time around can add further complications, take advantage of any work-related benefits.
If you are 55 or older and need to go back to work, one place to look is the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) through the U.S. Department of Labor Training and Employment Administration. AARP, https://bit.ly/3WSv5a9, also has resources to help grandparents find jobs and training opportunities.
No matter what the circumstances, all grandparents raising grandchildren need education and support. Parenting the second time around will be different from the first time. I look back at how I was raised and how things were when my children were young, the world today is very different from even 15 years ago. Basically, parenting of any kind requires us to be lifelong learners and we need good information to help us navigate the basic challenges of parenting and the new ones that are arising from technology.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is a good source of research-based and up-to-date information on parenting as well as health and nutrition for children and adults. Extension provides programs and services in every county in Arkansas and online. One useful resource for grandparents is our fact sheet series, Adventures in Grandparenting, which includes helpful information on the nutritional needs of children and financial planning.
Sometimes parenting the second time around involves legal issues or requires special services to be able to care for your grandchild. The Arkansas GrandFacts State Fact Sheet 2021, https://bit.ly/3vQfGLC, has a list of organizations and quick links to make finding resources easier.
If you or your organization would like to learn more about parenting resources and programs in Garland County, contact the Extension Service at 501-623-6841 or email Alison Crane at [email protected].