Kaikai’s grandfather, Li Zhigang, was doing the best he could, but his own health was deteriorating under the pressure of taking care of his wife, who is bedridden, his father, who is over 80, and his grandson. For eleven months after his birth, Kaikai’s mom had been at home to help, but in order to lessen the family’s financial burdens she, like Kaikai’s dad before her, left the village to find work leaving the household in her 57-year-old father’s hands.
Living in a household with three aging family members, Kaikai gradually became very shy and afraid of strangers and seldom communicated or interacted with others. Zhigang thought Kaikai might also have physical problems because he kept his mouth open most of the time and drooled excessively. Though his grandfather was anxious and distressed about his grandson’s development, he felt helpless about his ability to provide the kind of care Kaikai needed.
Happily, help was available at OneSky’s Family Center where trained Family Mentors provide parenting skills training, including on-site demonstrations, for overwhelmed caregivers like Kaikai’s grandfather. At the Center, OneSky’s trained mentors assessed Kaikai thoroughly and determined that despite his grandfather’s fears, his physical and cognitive development was good, though his language development was slow.
OneSky’s family mentors urged Zhigang to take Kaikai outdoors more and to bring him to the Family Center more often so they could help him come up with caregiver-child activities to promote his grandson’s healthy development. They also encouraged him to talk more to Kaikai at home, advice he dutifully followed. For example, when Zhigang did housework, he started telling Kaikai what he was doing and asking him to help when he could safely do so. Now that he was living in a less-silent household, Kaikai started understanding and remembering more vocabulary easily.
OneSky’s family mentor Zhu Zhenzhen also assured Kaikai’s grandfather that his excessive drooling did not stem from a physical deformity telling him, “Please do not worry. You will see improvement after some training exercises.” When Zhenzhen and her colleague visited the family at home, they designed a “boat blowing” game for Kaikai. They put some water in a basin and then placed a paper boat in it. The mentors demonstrated the game first and then asked the grandfather to guide Kaikai to blow the boat around the basin. Kaikai loved the game and in the process learned to use his lungs more effectively. At the end of the home visit, the family mentors suggested similar games like blowing bubbles, whistling, and blowing up balloons. The mentors’ advice and practical suggestions enhanced Zhigang’s confidence that he could provide the care his grandson needs.
Thanks to the united efforts of OneSky-trained family mentors and his grandfather, Kaikai, who is now 18 months old, has become livelier and even takes the initiative to smile and say hello to each of his teachers. Now, no matter how busy and discouraged he is, Zhigang makes the time to bring Kaikai to the OneSky Family Center regularly where he knows that, despite the challenges of caring for his grandson while also caring for his wife and father, he will always find help.
By Betty Jiang, Village Communications Coordinator