LAYTON -- Empty nesters sometimes find themselves with new responsibilities they didn't think they would have at their age. Their children are grown and have families of their own. Now is the time for enjoying doing things they want to do.
But all of that changes when the silence in your home is suddenly filled with the laughter and tears of children who are living there on a permanent basis. Soon you are filled with mixed emotions. It is not always the grandparents who take care of neglected children. It could be an aunt or uncle who ends up with their sibling's children or maybe a cousin.
These emotions are sometimes good and sometimes difficult, but there is help in coping with them.
Children Service Society is here to help. The organization helps kinship caregivers who are providing a home for children of a relative who can't stay in the home of their parents.
A 10-week Grandfamilies First Class is taught to caregivers so they can learn how to meet the needs of the children and to help them understand and validate their own feelings about interrupting their lives to care for children.
The weekly class is taught at Davis Behavioral Health in Layton. Some of the topics discussed include unique family dynamics of kinship caregiving, understanding drug and alcohol addiction, understanding your legal rights and how to deal with the emotional issues of the children in your care.
A documentary on substance abuse, parenting and feelings was discussed in a recent meeting with the discussion facilitated by social worker Anna O'Hearon. Because of the sensitivity of these relationships and situations, names and ages of those involved were withheld at the meeting.
The kinship caregivers met in a class while the children, ages 4 through 11, met in their own group. The children's groups are psycho-social classes conducted by trained professionals. Classes for children include: drug and alcohol prevention, family dynamics, feelings, communication skills, stress reduction, anger management and other social skills.
Common issues for children of substance-abusing parents include: Chaotic life styles, neglect, guilt, shame, secrecy, sexual abuse, substance abuse as a coping mechanism, post traumatic stress disorder, exposure to toxic substances, domestic violence and others.
Both the adults and children are given a light dinner at the beginning of the classes. While the children were finishing pizza they talked about "peaches and pits" that happened to them during the week. Peaches are good things that happen and pits are things that are not so good.
One young boy said his "peaches" came when he found a place to play football and the "pits" happened when he found they wouldn't be playing until spring.
Another boy said the good thing that happened is that he got to play at recess and the not so good thing is that his legs are sore.
While still seated around the table the children listened as intern Melissa Celauro read "My Many Colored Days" by Dr. Seuss. She displayed the colored pictures in the book as she read.
The children colored paper child-shaped cutouts and talked about how the different colors made them feel while their caregivers talked about the movie and the feelings they had. Other games were also played to teach about feelings.
One grandmother said she can really relate to the grandmother in the movie while another said she had a difficult time relating to the movie but she felt bad for the boys in the movie who had a mom who abused drugs.
"I can always take time for myself, but the kids are more important. I can give the kids a better life than their parents can," said a caregiver.
They talked of the positive things kinship caregivers can do for the children such as continuing family traditions and learning to listen as the children talk about how they feel and allowing them to express themselves.
Those who would like to know more about the classes may call Anna O'Hearon at 801-915-7518.