Unconditional Love

I remember my grandparents and how I loved to spend time with them as a child---countless children do, and it’s a very special time. Asked about his grandparents, one boy exclaimed, “When they read to us they don’t skip pages, and they don’t mind if we want to read the same story over and over again.” Another child boasted, “Grandpa is the smartest man in the whole world ‘cause he teaches me lots of good things, but I don’t get to see him enough to be as smart as him.”

Many kids are fortunate to know all or at least one of their grandparents, and grandparents value spending time with their grandkids as much as their grandkids do. In a recent AARP report on grandparents age 50+, Insights and Spending Habits of Modern Grandparents, findings shed light on their “experiences, triumphs and challenges,” including grandparents who are raising grandchildren.

How do grandparents feel about being grandparents? The most common response was joy. Many spoke of feeling unconditional love; different from the love they felt from their own children. They also enjoyed the pleasantness of parenting without having to discipline or be primary caregivers (unless they were caregivers for their grandchildren). Most grandparents believe they play a very important role in their grandchildren’s lives. This isn’t surprising among Latinos since traditionally families are large and close-knit, and abuelas and abuelos are integral to family life. While geography separates some families, those living in the same country often live close together or even in the same household.

Most grandparents think of themselves as shapers of future generations; obligated to pass on spiritual and moral values and help their grandchildren develop integrity and other positive character traits. For grandparents raising their grandchildren, nearly half also had their grandchildren’s parent(s) living with them. Generally, this happened when the parents were separated or divorced. Most of these grandparents had raised their grandchildren at least four years and many anticipated raising them another five years or more.

Grandparents raising grandchildren have taken on the added responsibility of being primary caregivers for their grandchildren. These men and women had to re-imagine themselves as parents---again---and as confident guides to their grandchildren. Given the importance of education as an economic equalizer for our communities, AARP developed a program focused on supporting the financial security of African American and Latino families, and providing grandparents with the tools they need to guide their grandchildren and families.

In developing this program, we have listened, learned and attempted to provide the most useful information in Guiding Your Grands/Apoyando A Tus Nietos, a set of English and Spanish language websites for grandparents raising and supporting grandchildren. The websites help grandparents encourage and prepare their grandchildren to become dreamers and achievers---emotionally, financially and academically---and to successfully pursue careers and financial security.

African American and Latino families---all families---want to be financially secure and help their children and grandchildren realize the dream of post-high school education. Through Guiding Your Grands/Apoyando A Tus Nietos, AARP is helping families achieve these goals.Someone once said, “Surely, two of the most satisfying experiences in life must be those of being a Grandchild or a Grandparent.” I’m sure most grandparents and grandchildren would agree. If you’re a grandparent raising grandchildren or simply want to help your grandchildren have the best opportunities to succeed in the future, please visit www.GuildingYourGrands.com or www.ApoyandoATusNietos.com. Also visit www.aarp.org/espanol for more articles and information about grandparenting.

Rocky Egusquiza is the AARP Vice President, Multicultural Markets and Engagement.