Once children have left home, most parents start adapting to a life without children, thinking of themselves, their retirement and their partners more. But there are a large number of grandparents in Canada who end up doing a second round of parenting—with their grandchildren.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2006 there were more than 65,000 children across the country being raised by grandparents, and those grandparents ranged in age from their 40s to their 80s. In BC this situation affects close to 10,000 children.
“In Powell River there are also many grandparents raising their grandchildren, either for short periods of time or permanently,” said Colleen Mudry of Powell River Child, Youth and Family Services Society (PRCYFSS). “The actual numbers are unknown because many do not access services or have a formal arrangement.” For this reason, PRCYFSS is starting up a new support group called Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG).
Mudry, who will be working as the coordinator of the new group, is looking forward to the launch this fall. “Parent Support Services Society of BC currently offers support groups for grandparents raising grandchildren in locations throughout BC, but not in Powell River,” she explained. “At our agency we know of many grandparents in this situation and felt that a group would enable grandparents to share resources, support, successes and challenges. We’re hoping that the group will help grandparents feel less isolated in the crucial parenting role that they are providing.”
To recognize this important role, a storytelling event for grandparents and grandchildren is being sponsored by PRCYFSS, Powell River Literacy Council and Powell River Public Library. It will be held on Saturday, August 20 from 10 to 11 am at Larry Gouthro Park (at Manson Avenue and Barnet Street). The event, called Me & You: Storytelling for Grandparents and their Grandchildren will provide stories and entertainment for the children, and information to grandparents about reading to and with the young people in their lives. Jeannette Jones, a trained Every Child Ready to Read facilitator from the library, will be at the event to talk about ways grandparents can encourage a love for reading in their grandchildren, and ways that they can use reading together as a bonding experience.
“When you cuddle up to share a book with your grandchild, you are creating a positive association with books and reading,” said Jomichele Seidl, assistant chief librarian. “You are building literacy and language skills, and you are strengthening the bond with that child. This is why it’s so important to keep it fun, keep it relaxed. Let the child interrupt the story to talk and ask questions, let them flip back to a page they want to revisit, and let them choose that favourite book again and again and again.”
Me & You will also provide the opportunity for grandparents interested in the new GRG group to talk to Mudry further. All grandparents are invited to attend this event with their grandchildren.
This free, outdoor event will run weather permitting. People wishing to attend can visit the council's website for cancellation notices.
Emma Levez Larocque is the literacy outreach coordinator for Powell River Literacy Council.