University of Illinois Extension

Finding the Support You Need

Ann Marie Marshall, Family Life Educator

"I need a place where I can cry, yell and laugh... a place where no one judges me." Does this sound like something you would say?

When you are called on to raise your grandchildren, you may find a change in your social circle. People whom you relied on when you needed support or a shoulder to cry on may disappear. Old friends may not be able to relate to your new parenting role. When this happens, connecting with other grandparents who are raising grandchildren can be an emotional lifesaver.

Many communities now host support groups and educational programs for grandparents raising grandchildren. Support groups give grandparents a place to come together to share experiences. It's a place where it is safe to cry, yell and laugh - a place where you will not be judged.

Group members share how they cope with financial, legal, medical and school problems. They may even exchange childcare, clothes or transportation. Some groups focus on political action or advocating for grandparents raising grandchildren. Members serve as mentors to help others through legal challenges.

Raising grandchildren can be stressful and exhausting. Finding support from people who understand and share your fears, grief, and challenges can help reduce your feelings of isolation and can help in problem solving.

If a group does not exist in your community, take the lead and start one. Talk to school social workers, your minister, senior center staff, or University of Illinois Extension educators. They may be able to host a meeting to help you find other interested grandparents.

The Illinois Department on Aging has funds available to help groups organize. Contact your Area Agency on Aging to learn more about funding for support groups.