In the past, several generations of a family lived together in one home and helped each other. If the parents didn’t have time to look after their children, there was always somebody else there to take care of them: the grandparent.
Nowadays, many families live far away from their grandparents, or parents have children later in life and the grandparents are either too old to help with raising the children or have already passed away. Therefore, an additional attachment figure for the children as well as support for the parents, is missing. Parents notice this particularly when they have difficulty finding the time between their jobs and household duties to take care of their children in the loving and patient way they would like. But there is a solution: finding a surrogate grandparent.
There are many older people who have retired and miss the feeling that they are needed. They may feel alone because their families live far away or they never had grandchildren. They may long to belong to a young family with children and would love to be surrogate grandparents. Being a surrogate grandparent can be a meaningful and uplifting experience for older people, giving them many laughs and happy moments. Good Health Magazine reported, in its December 2011 issue, that people who are volunteering have lower levels of depression, are more satisfied with their lives, have less anxiety and tend to live longer.
Families expect surrogate grandparents to visit them regularly to establish a close, long-term relationship with the whole family. Surrogate grandparents can help families by simply spending time with them and sharing the love that they have to give. They can spend quality time with the children or help the parents by giving them advice and practical help. Parents will be happy to have someone to share the everyday wonders and joys of living with children. Children will have another person to turn to when they can‘t talk to their parents. Without grandparents children would miss out on the invaluable benefits of a close relationship with seniors.
Many families know the numerous benefits of having a surrogate grandparent and would like to find one. It is difficult to know exactly how many families in Australia are currently looking for surrogate grandparents, but one can find many ads in local papers and on the internet. Both parties, the family and the surrogate grandparents, should be aware that it might take a while to find the right match. Sometimes multiple attempts are necessary to find someone with similar expectations who is likeable. But once they discover each other, it could be the beginning of a wonderful relationship that may last for many years.
The demand for surrogate grandparents exists in many other countries as well. Some countries have already established services to find surrogate grandparents for families. In Germany, for example, you can find organisations in most cities which match surrogate grandparents to families and they have run successfully for more than a decade. With some services, the surrogate grandparents come to families as volunteers, but others allow the surrogate grandparents a small allowance to cover their expenses, which is paid by the family. In Munich, for example, there are currently 110 surrogate grandparents visiting families.
Until recently there was no service in Australia that people could turn to in their search for a surrogate grandparent. Now there is an exciting new service, Find a Grandparent, that connects surrogate grandparents with young families. It is currently looking for surrogate grandparents who would like to come to families as volunteers. Registering is free for potential grandparents, but families are charged a fee.
Find a Grandparent is a not-for-profit organisation that has been established to bring the generations together and to advocate tolerance and appreciation between generations. If you are interested in joining, please have a look at www.findagrandparent.org.au.