Grandparents hit the books to relearn parenting

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Grandparents hit the books to relearn parenting

‘It’s more emotionally beneficial for children to be raised by their grandmother.’



More grandparents are raising their grandchildren to help out their busy working sons and daughters as double-income households in the country continue to rise, according to data from Korea’s national statistics agency.

But accompanying that phenomenon has also been an increase in child care courses targeting this older generation ? classes for very grown-up grown-ups, as it were.

According to Statistics Korea, 2.5 million families in 2012 among the 5.1 million households in which both parents were working ? nearly half, at 49 percent ? had turned to their children’s grandparents to help with care.

Typically parents with children of similar ages come together and invite an instructor to give private lessons in child care. The most sought-after instructors are those with a background and experience in early childhood education or child studies, and practical experience as day care center directors.

“I teach 20 to 30 classes just in places like Gangnam and Songpa [districts in Seoul] and Bundang [district in Gyeonggi],” said a child care instructor surnamed Yoon, 42, referring to affluent areas. “As reviews have spread among young mothers, [the number of people requesting instruction] has soared.”

Now, however, parents are signing up grandparents for these classes.

“There are times when I wonder if this is really necessary,” lamented Kim Sun-ye, a 62-year-old grandmother. “But I’m diligently attending so that my grandchild doesn’t fall behind the other kids.”

Some city, county and district offices operate child care classrooms for such grandparents, though the curriculum for private classes can be designed to focus on what mothers want to see from their children.

Some of the classes focus on massages that presumably promote growth in children and strengthen the spine, as well as children’s songs in English for brain development.

Many instructors have also introduced the latest gadgets in child care, like baby bottles that change color depending on the drink’s temperature and mats to protect children’s knees.

“Prices for these classes vary depending on the instructor and the number of people interested, and can range from 300,000 won ($270) to 800,000 won per month,” said an instructor surnamed Choi, 47, from Bundang.

Most parents are willing to make the investment, believing that if the grandparents are going to take care of their children at all, they can strive for more.

“It seems more emotionally beneficial for children to be raised by their grandmother rather than in the hands of a nanny,” said Yoon So-jung, a 36-year-old mother. “I hope [the grandmothers] will view these private lessons on infant and child care positively.”

Still, some grandparents ? even after taking the classes ? aren’t enthusiastic.

“I’m pretty disappointed because, now, in addition to being nagged about not letting her eat food that has spilled on the floor or not to carry her for long lengths of time lest her legs grow strangely, I have to attend these classes,” said a 62-year-old grandmother surnamed Hwang, who cares for her 3-year-old granddaughter.

Her sentiments appeared to be more common than the exception.

In a poll last year by the Seoul Metropolitan Government that polled residents 60 or older, 34.7 percent of respondents said that they had no interest in child care, while 37.1 percent said they felt ambivalent about the prospect of taking care of their grandchildren.

To ease the generational friction resulting over the issue of child care, experts advised that more efforts be taken to promote understanding and a regular routine.

“It’s easy for conflict to arise between parents and grandparents if the agency of the grandparents is reduced because of child care,” said Jun Hye-jeong, a professor of child and family studies at Yonsei University.

“Both generations must work hard to create a new model of family life such that child care is a change for the better in the lives of the older generation.”

BY KIM SUN-MI [enational@joongang.co.kr]


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