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'90s FAMILY : Refilling the Empty Nest

August 10, 1994|Compiled from Times staff and news services

An increasing number of grandparents are being forced to cope with the fact that their empty nests are being filled by grandchildren for whom they must care.

More than 3.3 million children live with grandparents who are their primary caregivers or legal guardians, a 41% increase over 1980, according to Census Bureau figures reported in Good Housekeeping.

While many older people provide day care for their grandchildren to assist working parents, growing numbers of grandparents seek custody of the children because the parents neglect them, suffer from mental or emotional problems, abuse drugs or alcohol, or--in the case of teen-age pregnancies--are too young to assume child-care responsibilities.

Raising grandchildren can mean delaying or giving up long-awaited retirement plans.

"One day, they've remodeled their house or purchased a motor home--the next day they're child-proofing cabinets or planning a child's birthday party," said Margaret Platt Jendrek, a Miami University professor studying the issue for the American Assn. of Retired Persons.

Preventive Education

Early learning experiences, which for many children can determine school success or failure, are the focus of the new Task Force on Learning in the Primary Grades, formed by the Carnegie Corp. of New York. The task force, made up of leaders in education, business, government services and the media, will study the education of children 3 to 10. Conclusions and recommendations will be reported within two years.

"Our premise is that the causes of educational failure for most children are largely preventable," said Dr. David A. Hamburg, the corporation's president. "Given high-quality, developmentally appropriate activities at school or at home and in the larger community, most children will succeed up to their ability. The question is how to create the conditions for educational success on a large-enough scale to reach virtually all children."

Gay Men Rate Love Over Sex

Gay men are more interested in romance and long-term relationships than in sex, according to a survey by a gay-oriented magazine. The results from the survey by the Advocate came from 13,000 responses received from its readers. The survey found that 80% of gay and bisexual men would rather live without sex than without love. Seventy-one percent also said they prefer long-term monogamous relationships to other arrangements.

"Popular images of gay men emphasize the quest for sexual gratification and underplay the quest for romance and companionship, but the results of this survey contradict that image," said Janet Lever, associate professor of sociology at Cal State University, Los Angeles, who analyzed the results.

Picking Names Instead of Burdens

In Child magazine, Albert Mehrabian of Los Angeles, author of "The Name Game," and Dr. H. David Stein, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, offer new parents these pointers for choosing a winning name:

* Steer clear of names with ugly or sexual connotations.

* Try not to choose names that rhyme.

* Be wary of names with strange or difficult spellings.

* Test each name by saying it aloud or using different permutations to make sure it's not problematic, such as Kristal Chandelier.

* If you must use a name because it is a family tradition but it seems a bit outdated or burdensome, allow your child to choose a middle name or a nickname to use every day.

* Seek names that can be a source of pride or that sound friendly, outgoing, savvy or intelligent.

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