KY grandparents raising grandchild help others do the same

Study shows KY ranks among the highest for the occurrence. An annual conference aims to help.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky is one of the leading states in the number of grandparents raising grandchildren, according to a CDC study. The study shows a strong connection between that number and the opioid epidemic.

Thursday, the 18th annual ‘Grandparents Raising Grandchildren‘ conference was held in Lexington, which tackles this issue, and more.

“People cared about each other,” Dale Sanders said. “We just knew that we weren’t alone in this whole thing.”

Sanders recalled the feeling he and his wife, Anna, have every year after the conference.

They said they started coming six years ago, right after gaining custody of their granddaughter, Abri.

“She was nine years old, and she had come from a traumatic background,” Anna Sanders said.

Their son, Heath, died of a heroin overdose in 2013. Having to deal with their own emotions and Abri’s emotions, all while taking on a parenting role, was very difficult.

Keynote speaker and peer victimization researcher Dr. Malcolm Smith, said the world has changed so much since grandparents raised their kids, and it can be a shock.

“The whole vernacular, the way kids communicate, he internet age that has interceded since they were kids, the changes in TV programming,” Smith said.

However, just like kids, Smith said grandparents are resilient.

“These grandparents are so hungry for good knowledge and good education that they’re the best learners that you can ever find,” Smith said.

Now, the Sanders are passing on that knowledge. They hosted their own session Thursday on how substance abuse affects families – specifically focusing on grandparents raising grandchildren.

“We’re wanting them to be educated,” Dale said. “Look at the signs. Talk to your grandchild.”

They said being open can help navigate the tough conversations and empower your grandchild to speak out against drug abuse, just like Abri does now.

And, just as important, they encourage grandparents to pour back into themselves.

“You can’t help someone else when you’re pouring from an empty cup,” Anna said.

The conference also covered bullying and dealing with anger. It also includes dozens of resources for caregivers.

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