When Granny and Papa Become Mama and Daddy: Raising Your Grandchildren
A recent statistic quoted on The Today Show (NBC) stated that over three million grandparents are now raising over five million grandchildren in the United States. While the reasons for this are vast, the results are the same. A large group of people who were expecting to find themselves with time to devote to a former way of life perhaps put aside while raising their own children now find themselves in charge of a whole new generation, a generation framed by iPhones, iPads, social media, and a whole new vocabulary and worldview. Additionally, at least a portion of these children has been separated from their parents because of addiction, financial or legal issues, or other trauma necessitating counseling for the child. What is a grandparent to do under such circumstances?
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) presents a succinct guide for grandparents on their website in an article entitled, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren by Amy Goyer (link provided at end of article) detailing priorities ranging from immediate housing arrangements to necessary documents to phone numbers, all of which is well-worth the time to read and follow. The biggest take-away, in my opinion, however, is to find support.
In a separate article found on HelpGuide.org, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren:
The Rewards and Challenges of Parenting the Second Time Around, Melinda Smith and Jeanne Segal (see link) present an emotional guide, just as important if not more so than AARP’s excellent suggestions. The authors make the point that, no matter how much you love your grandchildren, you most likely never intended to raise a second set of children, and doing so is bound to bring up both positive and negative emotions which need acknowledgement. At the end of their article, a list of additional resources is provided as well.
Unfortunately, despite the increasing number of multi-generational households, there are currently few support groups for grandparents raising their grandchildren (and most likely little time in grandparents’ newly busy lives to attend them). However, the need for such groups is great. Consider talking with your grandchildren’s school or perhaps your church or other civic organization about starting such a group. The old saying that there’s strength in numbers holds true in this situation, and talking with other grandparents in similar situations can give you some indication of what’s “normal” and what to expect, as well as how to cope with issues which may not have been relevant when your own children were younger.
Of course, we here at ACG Counseling Services always stand ready to assist in counseling needs of children and grandparents alike, aware of the unique challenges both face under these and so many more circumstances. We offer individual and family counseling in comfortable surroundings in which we strive to help everyone involved feel secure, capable, and excited about the possibilities to come.
Lastly, a happy reminder. While raising grandchildren presents a variety of challenges, the very real possibility exists that you can make a positive difference in the lives of these young people, instilling values and providing stability in a time when they need them most. Such relationships can be mutually beneficial, shaving off the film of time and taking you back to days of excitement, vitality, and an optimism for the future. It’s true that you might not run as fast (or at all) as you used to when the ball gets away in play, but this time around, you have the experience to know where to look for it when you do get there.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. http://www.aarp.org/relationships/friends-family/info-08-2011/grandfamilies-guide-getting-started.html
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: The Rewards and Challenges of Parenting the Second Time Around. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grandparenting/grandparents-as-parents.htm