Why friendships are important for grandparent and kinship carers

Being a grandparent carer or being a kinship carer often means big changes to your social life. It might be a bit harder to fit in your weekly game of tennis or a meal out with friends – or whatever social activity is important to you.

But it’s worth making the effort to catch up with friends and do things you enjoy. Your friends are still part of who you are. They can give you time to be yourself, as well as support you. And being with your friends is an important part of taking care of yourself as a grandparent or kinship carer.

We still contact each other and still love each other to death, my girlfriends and I, even though our lives have gone in different ways now.
– Helen, grandmother

Keeping up with friends: practical tips for grandparent and kinship carers

Even if you feel your life has gone in a different direction from your friends’ lives, a little planning can help you stay in touch. Here are some tips:

  • Try changing the place. If the place where you used to catch up with friends isn’t child friendly, try catching up at home or finding a café with a playground or a toy box.
  • Try changing the time. If you’re caring for a school-age child, catching up with friends during school hours might work best for you.
  • If you get an invitation that doesn’t suit, try suggesting something else. For example, ‘Thanks – I’d love to see that movie. Is it on during the day? That’s when Ella’s at school’.
  • If you’re a member of a group, try to keep in touch, even if you can’t go to all the games or meetings. You might make time to watch a match or get to a special event – for example, an end-of-season celebration.
  • Ask for help. If you have a partner, family member or friend, it’s OK to ask them to babysit occasionally. You could also look for a reliable babysitter. You can use the time to catch up with old friends for a meal or movie.
  • If you’re a member of a cultural, church or spiritual group, find out about activities for children. Religious school events, festival celebrations or other activities can give you a chance to catch up with your friends. Being part of a cultural group can also help children learn about their cultural traditions and heritage.

The grandkids are learning about the Aboriginal culture, cooking the food, our bush tucker and respecting the Elders. We teach them, sit around the fire, just yarn about things.
– Miriam, grandmother

How grandparent and kinship carers can make new friends

Your new role caring for a child can give you the chance to make new friendships with other grandparent or kinship carers, as well as with the parents of your child’s friends. Connecting with others who are in the same situation can help you and your child – you can share your stories, support and ideas.

Get contact information for grandparent and kinship carer support groups around Australia in our article on services for grandparent and kinship carers.

Grandparent and kinship carers: family relationships

When it comes to family relationships, taking on the care of a child can have its ups and downs.

On the upside, you might find that your extended family comes closer together when you become a carer. Your family might naturally look for more ways to spend time together as a group, especially if there are other children the same age as yours. If this happens, it’s great for helping your child develop a sense of identity and belonging.

Your family can also be an important source of practical and emotional support for you and your child.

If you can, try to spend time with extended family regularly – for example, have a picnic at the park or a backyard barbecue. This can help the relationships between the child and family members keep growing.

The downside of taking on the care of a child might be that you have less time for your other grandchildren, nieces, nephews and so on. Depending on how often you see them, not having you around as much might be a big change for them as well.

Talking openly about the issues, without judging each other, can help you and other family members understand how you each see the situation. But sometimes this isn’t easy. If you need help or advice about raising these issues, you could contact Relationships Australia for counselling, family mediation and support services.

I try to make sure the children see some of their family, so we spend a lot of time in the holidays travelling around, and we take lots of photos.
– Grandparent carer