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Grandparent Program Improves Children’s Behavior

Grandparents usually look forward to spending time with their grandkids and are often the first call when parents need help with babysitting or time for themselves. While many grandparents are...

Grandparents usually look forward to spending time with their grandkids and are often the first call when parents need help with babysitting or time for themselves. While many grandparents are quite capable of overseeing their grandchildren, a refresher course in childcare and communication can offer resources grandparents may not have considered.

In a recent study conducted in Australia, researchers found that grandparents who participated in an updated grand-parenting program designed to encourage better communication between generations and give grandparents a parenting "refresher" course, reported fewer behavior problems among children.

"The main reason we wanted to focus on grandparents is that there still aren't that many parents getting involved with parenting programs," James Kirby, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.

The new program is an updated version of a similar program called the Triple P-Positive Parenting Program that has been available for about 30 years.  The sessions focus on parenting, the relationship between grandparents and parents and unhelpful emotions - such as anxiety, stress and anger. The program takes about 15 hours to complete. The newer version focuses on grandparents, last nine weeks and involves seven groups and two phone sessions.

For the new study, the researchers recruited 54 older people who were providing at least 12 hours of care per week to grandchildren who were between ages two and nine.

Twenty-eight grandparents were randomly assigned to participate in the program. The others served as a comparison group.

All of the grandparents and parents periodically completed questionnaires about the children's behavior, their own parenting styles and confidence and the grandparents' adjustment.

At the beginning of the study, all of the children scored similarly on a scale that measures the severity of behavior problems between 0 and 36 and the frequency of those problems between 36 and 252. Higher scores indicate worse behavior.

The children whose grandparents participated in the program began the study with an average behavior severity score of about 13 points and a frequency score of about 122 points. Those fell to about 7 and 101 points, respectively, after the program.

Among children whose grandparents didn't participate in the program, behavior severity scores remained the same at about 11 points throughout the study. Scores reflecting frequency of behavior problems increased from about 116 points at the start to about 119 at the end.

None of the average scores for either group reached the cutoff for clinical significance, however. At that point, children should possibly be examined for behavior disorders or other conditions.

The standout changes noted in the research were that the grandparents who participated in the study reported improved confidence and less depression, anxiety and stress, compared to those who didn’t take part in the program. "We're helping with the grandparents' own mental health," Kirby said. "And - at the same time - we're also helping to reduce the child behavior problems."

Six month after the sessions, the results from the program continued to hold true.

The ultimate goal, Kirby said, is to create a shorter version of the program. But they're already in the process of turning the resources from their study into published resources for people to use.

"Don't undervalue the contribution of grandparents," Kirby said. "They can have a significant influence on the improvement of child behavior."

A lot has change since people of grand-parenting age raised their own children. Safety guidelines, such as making sure a baby sleeps on his or her back, have been updated, as well as other safety precautions that were not known twenty to thirty years ago.  Parenting 101 courses are available in many cities and can be found through Internet searches or talking with a family doctor. These are great refresher courses for grandparents to check out.

Many families simply couldn’t get by without the help of their parents. Grandparents around the world step up when called upon, sometimes raising their grandchildren when parents are either not able to or are no longer alive.  They deserve a big hug and thank you. Oftentimes, they add a positive dimension to a child’s development and life they would not otherwise receive.

Source: Andrew M. Seaman, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/16/us-grandparents-child-behavior-idUSBRE9BF1EZ20131216

 

 

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About Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award winning pediatrician and medical editor for www.kidsdr.com.  She is a native of Washington, D.C. who travelled south to attend the University of Texas at Austin and never left.Read More