In Grandfamilies PTSA (GPTSA), our community-based group, the guiding focus is support derived from networking with a number of people having similar family circumstances: most of us are grandparents responsible for raising our grandchildren. The issues inherent in this relationship transcend school boundaries, and our members from across the city—with our community partners–help each other in getting our children successfully through school.
Several situations give an idea of just some of the ways our members continually “step up.” In one of them, a GPTSA grandparent member saw that two of her grandchildren were having difficulty in school and in danger of failing. Wanting the best for her grandchildren and not knowing how to address this situation, the grandmother understandably was under great stress. So she reached out to her GPTSA network. Members gave her insight into how they had handled similar situations, engaging teachers and administrators in the process. She found that school staff was more than receptive to supporting her and her grandchildren. They gladly offered every resource at their disposal to this cooperative, actively interested grandparent. That might sound obvious and intuitive, but too often caregivers wait until it’s too late to make a difference or don’t try at all to intervene in difficult school situations. Encouragement from our members let this caring grandmother know that she did have options and that there were people willing to help.
Certainly there are “tip of the iceberg” issues represented by failing grades and social conflicts at school. Beneath these, though, are the situations with which GPTSA members most valuably step up to help each other. In many instances, the grandparent-grandchild relationship at home can be difficult, full of heartbreaking friction. Wanting so much for their grandchildren and not having the emotional or physical energy they had as young parents, grandparents often can feel overwhelmed by the demands of being responsible for children at an older age. Our members serve as nonjudgmental sounding boards and sometimes shoulders to lean on during those times.
In addition we reach out to the community with resource fairs that include mobile food bank distributions, free gently used books, school supplies, and health screenings, among other services.
So our members step up to support each other and the community in ways that are practical as well as emotional. Circumstances determine which is more important at any given time
In your community or at your child’s school there is a PTA that needs the help and involvement of caring, committed people. If you are not already reaching out to one of these please consider doing so. You will get as much as you give.
Annette Saunders is president of the Grandfamilies PTSA in Baltimore, Maryland. Learn more about the work of the Grandfamilies PTSA.