I’m noticing a trend in our congregation.

It’s possible that you or a family member is affected by this, too.

There have been a lot more households in our church in which a grandparent or grandparents have taken on the role of primary caregiver to their grandkids.

A lot of grandparents are co-parenting with their child and grandkid(s) living with them.

Instead of retiring or thinking about retirement, this group of grandparents is taking on a new challenge that many didn’t expect would happen.

There are many resources for parents within our community like Early Childhood Family Education, the YMCA, and the Lakes Center for Youth and Families. While grandparents have access to these resources, these grandparents are searching for something more. They are seeking support and peer guidance from other people in the same boat. They’re looking for peers who get what they’re going through.

At Faith, a grandparent who prefers to remain anonymous applied for a grant within the church to establish a peer support network called Grandparent Parenting Support to bring together people with similar situations and have monthly sessions to share and learn from each other. The double meaning of the acronym GPS shows they are looking for directions on how to navigate uncharted territory.

In her grant, she detailed the data to back up the need, especially since she had been unable to locate a support group in the Twin Cities that filled this specific niche. According to AARP’s GrandFacts, more than 2.6 million children live in homes where grandparents are the householders and are responsible for them.

“About 34% of these grandparents are over age 60. Approximately 3 million kids live with grandparents in other, less formal, arrangements,” she said. “The upward trend is undeniable.”

There is a great, unmet need for grandparent support for the psychological, emotional, financial, legal, and physical demands of full-time parenting.

“The purpose of [this group] is to support our choice, but never to question it,” she said. “Our need for sharing stories, finding answers, investigating concerns and grieving the loss of a personally-determined retirement, however, is very real and needs a safe place for expression with positive outlets. We should not have to feel as if we are alone on this journey.”

The anonymous member explained that her wish for her grandchild is that they have a “happy home and a strong faith and belief in the goodness of life.”

The first meeting is on Thursday, Oct. 3 at Faith Lutheran from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Childcare will be provided. The topic is “How to reduce stress in your life?” They plan to meet monthly on the first Thursday evening, and they encourage the community to invite others that will benefit from this support to attend.

“I think this group is going to make me feel not alone in this journey,” she said.

John Klawiter is the senior pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Forest Lake on North Shore Drive. The church affirms, and means it, that all are welcome. For more information, email him at johnk@faithfl.org.

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