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Organization works to bring resources to grandparents

Grandfamilies is an organization in partnership with WVSU bringing resources to grandparents in Kanawha County, (WCHS/WVAH)

Healthy Grandfamilies is a new resource group dedicated to helping grandparents in Kanawha County who are raising children. The drug epidemic has played a role in why so many grandparents in Appalachia have to raise their grandchildren.

After careful study and preparation West Virginia State University started to offer a program to the community called Healthy Grandfamilies.

Program director Brenda Wamsley said many of these families are in a crisis. They face obstacles including health concerns, generational gaps, lack of understanding, and a limited knowledge of parenting in the 21st century.

"This is not what comes to mind when you think of retirement," Brenda Wamsley said. "This is not what you think, when you think about getting older."

Through community discussion groups the grandparents involved can learn about a variety of topics such as technology, communication, health, nutrition and legal issues. Wamsley said they take the information and develop personal plans for each family.

"We talk about parenting, communication and self care for their own health. We talk about a wide range of topics."

Bonnie Dunn is the co-director for the project. She leads the discussion topics in churches, community centers and schools across Kanawha County.

"I have one lady who rides the bus," Dunn said. "That just demonstrates the need. She needs the topics, but she also needs the fellowship of other grandparents."

When first signing up for the program families hear from Yvonne Lee. She is the project social worker. Lee is the first to meet with the families, and in many cases checks on them daily.

"We support our grandparents in learning these types of things," Lee said. "Some of these things are small and simple but when they were raising their children these things didn't exist. They didn't need to know it. Now they do and so even though they are becoming parents again they are still grandparents. We have to consider the age of the grandparents. We have to consider the health of the grandparents."

The program also allows West Virginia State University social work students to get a hands-on learning experience by working with the program. To learn more about the Grandfamilies program at WVSU contact Yvonne Lee at yvonne.lee@wvstateu.edu or call 301-204-4006.

Below is a list of the discussion topics available to grandparents in the program.

Discussion Session Overview

• Parenting in the 21st Century

• Family Relationships: A new dynamic

• Communication: When no one talks and everyone texts

• Technology & Social Media: The dangers, pitfalls & plusses

• Nutrition: Balancing diets when everyone is “on the go”

• Legal Issues & Documents: Getting past all the legal issues to learn “who is really in charge”

• Health Literacy & Self-Care: How to take care of your own health issues in this new family dynamic

• Healthy Lifestyles & Stress Management: Learn how to manage your stress — and the stress of your grandchildren

• Negotiating the Public School System: Learn about Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO) and how to help your grandchildren with homework

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