When you first get that call to take on the care of your grandchildren or you realise that is what you must do to ensure their safety and well being, you are likely to be swamped by a thousand questions and a sudden realisation of the enormity of the journey ahead of you. And these are just the thoughts and questions in your own head, let alone the questions that will come later from the children and others around you.
STOP! Take a deep breath. Sit down and have a cup of tea.
Now read on...
There are some things that it is important to get right and get sorted from the beginning.
Children thrive best when they are loved, nurtured, feel safe and all their basics like food, shelter and clothing are taken care of. If you have that sorted then you are well on the way.
Here are some tips for making the days, weeks and months ahead manageable as you take on this journey with your grandchildren.
One of the most important things you can do for your grandchildren and whanau in the early days is to establish a routine.
Make sure breakfast is at the same time each morning. Get them up and eating breakfast at 7am with a nourishing breakfast. Some children also respond well with a warm chocolate milk like Milo or Bournvita that has added vitamins. Find out what works for them and what makes them feel loved and reassured each day before they head out into the world.
For little ones at home each day or for the older ones on the weekends too, make part of your routine morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner time at around the same times each day.
Children need routines. For children who have been in an abusive situation before coming into your care they may have experienced no routine whatsoever which has simply added to their overall heightened state of anxiety and uncertainty about the world they are living in.
It is so important to reassure your grandchildren that you love them. It is also important to reassure them that Mum and Dad still love them too – even if it means you feel like you are saying it through gritted teeth. Say it! It is important.
They also need to know and be reassured that they are not the problem and the reason why they are not living with their parents, because in nearly all cases they can’t help but think they are responsible and they blame themselves. This is turn erodes their self-esteem and confidence and creates anxiety which overwhelms their ability to adjust and adapt to their new lives; to grow, develop and to realise their full potential.
Keep things calm around the children. Never discuss adult issues in front of them and never criticise their parents in front of them or within earshot of them. They are inextricably linked to their parents as you are to your own children and we all derive a sense of identity and self-esteem that is in some way linked to our view of our parents.
If you haven’t already got them – you will need to have a certified copy of the children’s birth certificates before you can enrol them in any pre-school or school. To apply for a New Zealand birth certificate there are a number of options available through the Department of Internal Affairs website or you can go to the Births Deaths and Marriages counter at your nearest District Court Registry Office and complete a form there.
If the children don’t already have a regular doctor they go to who is known to you, it is a good idea to get them registered with a GP to ensure their ongoing health needs are taken care of and especially to check whether they have been immunised or not. You will need to provide an Immunisation Certificate when enrolling the children in school or preschool or at the very least be able to advise them of their immunisation status.
Every child has a unique National Health Index Number assigned to them at birth and there is a National Immunisation Register that the doctor can refer to in order to advise you whether the child or children have received their immunisations or not or what have been missed. You can then make the necessary decisions about vaccination from there.
For more information on immunisations please see the Immunisation Advisory Centre website that has loads of helpful information.
For more information on the free health services available to children please see the Ministry of Health website on the Well Child/Tamariki Ora services for children.
Keep all your legal documents in a safe place and have plenty of photocopies. If you know where everything is that you need for all the professionals and agencies you will be in contact with, it will reduce your stress. As they say - don't sweat the small stuff!
|Our GRG Handbook – which contains a vast amount of information and advice for carers on the issues grandparent and whanau caregivers have to deal with from self-care to the legal and financial issues.|
|Help when You’re Caring for Someone Else’s Child – a handbook published by Work and Income with input from GRG covering the financial support entitlements available to grandparent and whanau caregivers.|
|The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Parenting Toolbox - a set of 9 DVDs produced by the Parenting Place in conjunction with GRG which duplicates their parenting course. This is an invaluable tool with entertaining and practical tips and strategies from grandparents raising grandchildren and some of New Zealand's best loved personalities including Dame Alison Holst, Bob Kerridge (grandparents themselves) Pio Terei and of course our very own founder Diane Vivian.|
Helpful booklets for caregivers of babies, under-fives and teenagers (which includes a booklet on sexual health).