Carol Sanders | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
Grandparents play important roles in the lives of children, said Dr. Janette Wheat, associate professor and Cooperative Extension Program specialist in human development and family studies at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Traditional roles of grandparents include providing a sense of family history, instilling ethnic heritage and family traditions; serving as playmates, role models and mentoring; and providing support during family disruption. But increasing numbers of grandparents are serving as surrogate parents, said Dr. Wheat.
National Grandparents Day is Sept. 10, a day set aside to honor grandparents. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a federal proclamation declaring the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day.
To honor grandparents, the U.S. Census Bureau began gathering statistics about the role of grandparents. Census 2000 was the first time that questions on grandparental caregiving were included in the census, said Dr. Wheat. Since then, results from the Pew Research Center, the 2005-2011 American Community Survey, and the 2010 Census show that 7.7 million children in the United States were living with a grandparent with nearly 3 million children cared for primarily by grandparents in 2011.
Since 2006, in Arkansas, 50,286 or 7.4 percent of children are living in grandparent-headed households. Another 11,881 children live in households headed by other relatives. In Arkansas, 33,618 grandparents report they are responsible for their grandchildren living with them.
Among grandparents raising grandchildren, 55 percent have done so for three years or more. “This is most common among black grandparent caregivers,” said Dr. Wheat.
Grandparents Day is not just another day, make it a special one, said Dr. Wheat. Grandparents Day doesn’t have to be costly. Time is a wonderful gift. Grandchildren can visit a grandparent or they can engage in an activity together. It can be playing a board game or going for a walk. Phone calls or texts are appreciated by most grandparents especially if the child takes the time to converse.
A card can be homemade and even more appreciated because a grandchild took the time to make it special. Fortunately, many grandparents as well as children enjoy ice cream. There’s no need for elaborate meal planning or cooking when it comes to celebrating Grandparents Day. Simply sharing ice cream together is appreciated.
Notable public figures attest to the importance of grandparents. President Jimmy Carter said, “Because grandparents are usually free to love and guide and befriend the young without having to take daily responsibility for them, they can often reach out past pride and fear of failure and close the space between generations.”
Alex Haley, the author of “Roots,” said, “Nobody can do for little children what grandparents can do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.”
Happy Grandparents Day!