“It’s doing normal things like teaching her to ride a bicycle, because I can’t hold the bicycle and run behind her,” Peterson said.
The first workshop was presented by John Murray of Families First of Virginia, who outlined how trauma affects children.
“A lot of grandparents are raising their grandchildren or maybe they are raising … their niece or nephew,” said Kathy Dial, Ph.D., of Kin and Kids Consulting, who is helping organize the programs.
“We are here to provide additional support for them in their journey of parenting their grandchildren,” she said.
Dial said many grandparents fail to take care of themselves when they step into parenting roles. The program includes information from social services to benefits for which grandparents are eligible, and how to navigate legal issues such as custody and working with juvenile courts.
Dial said nationwide the number of grandparents returning to parenting roles has risen by 30 percent, as economic issues and drug dependency exacerbate parenting problems.
Jenny Fertig, 58, the program specialist for the 55 Plus Initiative, has also been raising her two grandkids, Tristan, 8, and Trenton, 4, for the past six months. Fertig’s youngest child is 28, and she said becoming a parent again is a big challenge.
Elaine and Ray Taylor from Great Bridge, who are in their late 50s, have been looking after their granddaughter since she was born. She’s now 9 years old.
“Her mother got in over her head,” Elaine Taylor said. “One of the biggest challenges is money. We weren’t prepared. We were happily done.”
They became legally responsible for their grandchild when she was 3. Elaine Taylor said they attended the workshop to find out more about the effects of trauma on children.
Murray told those in attendance that when children move from home to home, and from parent to grandparent, it is often a very traumatic experience for them.
“We don’t really think of ourselves as grandparents,” Elaine Taylor said. “We think of ourselves as parents.”
“Families are changing,” she said.