Feature Archive

Grand Parenting?

Tips for staying sane when rearing your grandchildren.

WebMD Feature

Feb. 21, 2000 (San Francisco) -- Ten years ago, Beulah Benson could dispense with the drudgery of housework in a matter of hours. Now the 65-year-old cleans a room a day in her modest South Los Angeles home. The slower schedule is crucial if Benson is going to conserve enough energy for a more important responsibility: rearing her 10-year-old granddaughter.

"I always thought I would have the same energy I always did, but the older you get, you realize you don't," says Benson, who single-handedly juggles a part-time job, household duties, and the feeding, dressing, taxiing, and parenting of her learning-disabled granddaughter. "I've had to reprogram myself to conserve the energy I have."

One of Many

Benson is one of millions of grandparents nationwide who, because of their own children's death, illness, incapacitation, or neglect have taken over the upbringing of their grandchildren. According to the AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), nearly 4 million children in the United States, or 6%, live with their grandparents. And for more than a quarter of those, nana and bumpa (and frequently just nana) are their sole caregivers.

Researchers have begun focusing on the phenomenon's health effects on grandparents. Parenting can be stressful and taxing for any adult, but two recently published studies conclude that for grandparents, child rearing can be an extra heavy burden.