Not everyone is lucky enough to have a grandparent living around the corner. While 27 per cent of Australians use grandparents as child-minders, many families don’t have this luxury.
When Cate Kloos, moved from Germany to Sydney, she struggled without the support of grandparents for her children. “I have two kids in Australia, and it felt quite lonely not having anybody to share anything special with,” says Ms Kloos.
Taking inspiration from services in Germany, Ms Kloos set up an Australian Find a Grandparent website, allowing families to find surrogate grandparents. Through the site families and ‘grandparents’ register their details and are then contacted when a match becomes available in their local area.
Ms Kloos can testify to the website’s success from her own experiences. Her family found their ‘grandmother’ when the site started a year ago, and plan to continue to see her “forever”, describing her as “part of the family”.
Dr Julie Green, executive director of the Raising Children Network, says it is important for children to have positive older role models in their lives.
“It can be an additional person for a child to be able to experience outings with, which has positive benefits for the child in terms of developing self-esteem and building on independence skills.”
While a grandparent or surrogate grandparent can both fill this role, she says a close family friend; aunt or uncle can also fill the gap.
Speaking of advice for new grandparents, Dr Green says the most important thing is that they be themselves and show an interest in the child. She recommends creating opportunities for the surrogate grandparent and child to share special one-on-one time together.
“These interactions needn’t cost money, it’s very affordable to go for walk or go to the park, read a story, or do some cooking or projects around the home together.”
At the moment Find a Grandparent has a lot more families registered than grandparents. Ms Kloos encourages older citizens to register for free online and find a new family. The only requirement is that they have an up to date National Police Check.