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Alan and Joan* threw a big bash to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Surrounded by their children, grandchildren, and friends, the champagne flowed as they toasted a life well lived.

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Parenting 2.0: The Evolving Role of Grandparents

Over the last decade, more and more grandparents have taken on the responsibility of raising their children’s children. For many today, the notion of spoiling their grandchildren for a few hours and then “giving them back” just isn’t a reality.

According to AARP, there are more than 2.5 million grandparents raising grandchildren in the United States. In Pennsylvania, nearly 240,000 children under age 18 live in homes where the householders (caregivers) are grandparents or other relatives.

Grandparents are not only providing for their grandchildren’s day-to-day needs, but they are also playing a bigger role in their education than ever before, which means learning new technologies and communication tools. It also means becoming their grandchild’s learning coach and mentor.

For some, communicating with teachers doesn’t come naturally. Many grandparents raised children at a time when there wasn’t a lot of direct communication with teachers other than periodic parent-teacher conferences.

Nowadays, teachers are emailing daily; we can receive information about our children’s test scores and behavior patterns in real time.

Technology is also advancing so rapidly that it’s difficult for those who aren’t fully immersed in it to keep up. Schoolchildren have grown up in this technology culture, and it creates a large gap between them and older generations who haven’t adapted to the change.

For some grandparents, it can be embarrassing and frustrating when they don’t know things related to technology and curriculum topics. It’s even harder when they don’t feel they can reach out for help.

Supporting a school-aged child takes a lot of time and energy. It also requires a lot of engagement on the grandparent’s part.

Here are five tips to help you navigate this year’s back-to-school season and help your grandchildren have the best school year yet.

 

1. Engage with your grandchildren and their teachers. Interact with your student and familiarize yourself with what they’re learning.

It’s also important to have an open line of communication with your student’s teachers. This will make it easier to help your student stay on top of assignments and spot when they fall behind.

 

2. Look into any school programs that assist your grandchildren while they’re at home. Some schools offer classes that give parents and grandparents tools to support their students with math strategies, the writing process, and note taking and test taking, among other skills.

 

3. Keep technology skills sharp or learn new ones by taking advantage of technology support sessions or classes. Students today are immersed in technology that advances more quickly than ever before.

It’s important to understand how your students are using technology such as email, social media, and tools like DropBox to help them maximize their benefits, as well as to keep them safe online.

There are often resources available at community centers or local colleges if your school doesn’t offer this support.

 

4. Take advantage of your school’s mentoring support. Mentors are fantastic resources with a wealth of knowledge and practical advice to share. They can provide tips on how best to help the students in your life succeed in and out of the classroom.

 

5. Take a deep breath. It can be overwhelming to stay on top of new technology and the new ways in which some subjects are taught.

 

Natasha Shane is a family involvement manager at Commonwealth Charter Academy, a Pennsylvania public cyber charter school with year-round open enrollment. For more information, please visit www.ccaeducate.me.

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