Grandchildren raised by their grandparents struggle more than children raised by other guardians. Knowing that their grandchildren may struggle in school, grandparents who have custody of their grandchildren can get involved in the school and provide support in the academic journey. The following list is a starting point for grandparents on ways to get involved in the school life of their grandchildren.
Strategies Grandparents Can Use
- Ask children about their school day and friends. Rather than ask how school is going, be specific. Ask children what book they are reading, what their favorite part of the school day is, or what they are studying in a particular subject. Ask children's opinions about current events or issues the kids are studying in class.
- Participate in your grandchildren's school. Plan a visit to the school and explore the types of resources available. For example, what types of tutoring are available? What supports do guidance counselors provide? Is there a support group for grandchildren? Most schools have a website today that contains valuable information about staff, school activities, progress reports, and policies. Ask how you can access the website.
- Meet your grandchildren's teachers. If you are unable to attend school open houses or parent-teacher conferences, make an appointment to meet.
- Participate in special school activities. Volunteer in the classroom if possible. Teachers often look to volunteers to read to children, help with special projects, or be a guest speaker.
- Praise children, not for their accomplishments but for their effort. Tell your grandchildren why you are praising them if they put special effort into a project or pursued more information about a topic that interested them. Write a special note or invite your grandchildren on a special outing in recognition of their effort.
- Avoid comparisons between siblings or between your adult children and your grandchildren. Find the unique qualities in your grandchildren that you hope to help them foster.
- Encourage your grandchildren to participate on some extracurricular activity. There are sports, after school programs, music and art clubs, etc. that can be beneficial in helping your grandchildren expand their knowledge and meet new friends.
Grandparents can be wonderful role models for children by demonstrating how to be lifelong learners. Read with your grandchildren, visit the library together, cook together, take a class on a a topic that interests you. Explain to grandchild how to learn from mistakes and how to continue learning, even after leaving school.
Encourage your grandchildren in future plans and goals. Let your grandkids know you believe in them and the importance of trying. Demonstrate how to be confident and relaxed.
As a grandparent raising grandchildren, remember that you are an important part of their success in school. Get involved in your grandchildren's homework, make school work a priority and stay in contact with the school.
- Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., Program Specialist in Aging, University of Wisconsin-Extension.
- Hayslip, B. and P.L. Kaminski, eds. (2008). Parenting the Custodial Grandchild: Implications for Clinical Practice. New York: Springer Publishing.