America Supports You: Group Helps Kids, Grandparents Bond
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 3, 2008 A new arm of an existing program is giving military children an opportunity to grow closer to their grandparents, who can help them through some of the trauma of having a parent in harm’s way.
“Research has proven that grandparents can play a powerful role in helping grandchildren cope with significant issues in life,” said Cavin Harper, executive director of the Colorado-based Christian Grandparenting Network. “We’ve been doing ‘GrandCamps’ for nine years, but this will be the first year for our military GrandCamp program.”
The Christian Grandparenting Network promotes effective grandparenting by challenging grandparents to take seriously their role of helping the younger generations navigate today’s challenges and become effective leaders, Harper said.
GrandCamps for military families follow the same five-day camping format of the regular camps and offer the same benefits, Harper explained. Grandparents and their school-age grandchildren both have a chance to have some fun and tell their stories to a group who can relate and provide support. This promotes intergenerational dialogue resulting in a new level of understanding and communication, he said.
“For the military program, we are especially focused on providing opportunity for the kids who have a deployed parent [to be] able to express some of their feelings and fears in a safe context, knowing that there are others who share those same feelings and fears,” Harper said. “The grandparents are given the opportunity to [talk] about their own concerns and fears, and we seek to provide them tools that will help them come alongside their grandchildren to deal with them in a positive and constructive manner.”
In addition to all the “here-and-now” benefits reaped from the camp experience, Harper said, it also lets the kids know that their grandparents are another source of help for dealing with life issues.
For military families, the camps are provided free of charge through Christian Grandparenting Network’s sponsors and supporters.
GrandCamps officials said they hope the program’s new affiliation with the Defense Department’s America Supports You program will help get the word out so as many military families as possible can benefit from the program.
America Supports You connects citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.
“Our hope is that we will be able to expand this program for military families at installations all across America, and to eventually develop GrandCamps for more specific needs, such as children of fallen or wounded soldiers, and families facing the reintegration process after lengthy and multiple deployments,” Harper said.