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More cons than pros: grandparents raising our kids

From: Ecns.cn

Updated:2012-05-12 11:41

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(Ecns.cn) -- Having already survived one round of parenting, a growing number of grandparents in China are now stepping up to the task of raising their children's children, according to an online survey conducted by the Social Survey Center of China Youth Daily (CYD).

Based on responses from 16,214 people across the nation, the survey shows that 87.8 percent of them say it is now common for grandparents to raise their grandchildren, a phenomenon caused mainly by pressure on young parents to work extra hours and meet financial challenges.

Despite an otherwise untenable situation for many working families, experts warn that the effects of placing childcare responsibilities in the hands of the elderly are more negative than positive for all parties involved.

Multiple issues

Young married couple Wu Cheng and Wang Qing both work in Beijing, but their two-year-old daughter now lives with her grandmother in their hometown in Fujian Province, reports China Youth Daily.

Lack of leisure time, financial restrictions and poor housing conditions are the main reasons they have left the child in the care of her grandmother, says Wang, who has only spent two months with her daughter since giving birth to her.

It is not a new practice in China, but at nearly 13 percent, the number of the CYD survey's respondents whose children live in similar circumstances is strikingly high.

When asked about the reasons for it, 80.8 percent blame busy work schedules, 51.5 percent cite money woes and 45.3 percent argue that it's a mutually beneficial arrangement, since the elderly have too much spare time and need the company.

According to Zheng Dandan, associate professor of sociology at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, these young parents are usually office workers who cannot reconcile their careers with the needs of their children.

Moreover, the shortage of qualified maternity nurses and the high price of daycare services make grandparents the best alternative, as they already have parenting experience, adds Zheng.

Negative effects

About 15 years ago, Tian Xiaoyun and her husband left their two-year-old boy with his grandmother and traveled to South Korea as migrant workers. Now, Tian is heavy-hearted about not having spent much time with the child.

Over the years, earning money was not easy, so she called her son once a month and only returned to China every two years.

When she came back for good after more than a decade, the boy was cold to her, says Tian, adding that even now, her son still prefers to share everything with his grandmother instead of her.

This is one of the consequences of grandparents raising grandchildren. Experts say children not raised by their biological parents are likely to suffer from issues related to neglect, abandonment, abuse and even more serious trauma.

According to the CYD survey, 67 percent of respondents believe this parenting style will hamper parent-child communication, while 59.7 also worry about the child-rearing and educational methods of grandparents.

Zheng Dandan points out that estranged relations are inevitable between parents and children raised by their grandparents, and that many parents will have acute problems trying to communicate with their kids under such circumstances.

If parents have differing views of child-rearing methods from the grandparents, disagreements may even lead to family breakdowns, says Zheng.

However, parenting grandparents have their advantages too, as they tend to have much wisdom and life experience, and their hearts are filled with compassion and love, Zheng adds.

Yet according to the CYD survey, 57.6 percent of respondents think this parenting style will bring about more negative effects than positive ones for children, and only 11.1 percent believe it is better to let grandparents raise their grandchildren.

Taking responsibility

Though they may be happy for the opportunity to spend so much time with their grandchildren, such late-in-life parenting is an exhausting job for elders who can be forgetful and less physically capable. For some of them, it also means the sacrifice of personal lives and ambitions in their twilight years.

Li Yan, an early childhood education professor at Shanghai Normal University, says that despite the difficulties, parents should try to avoid this option and raise their own children.

Preschool education is very important to the parent-child relationship and will affect a child's future interpersonal relationships, notes Li, adding that if parents have to separate from their children, they should at least ensure daily communication with the kids and make them feel loved.

In the CYD survey, most respondents admit to the negative effects of grandparents raising grandchildren, and 72.4 percent hope to spend as much time as possible with their children.

Zheng Dandan calls on the government to give young parents more support in raising their children on their own. For example, kindergartens should prolong daily hours of operation to ease parents' pressure from work, and large communities should introduce childcare services, says Zheng.

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