You’ve managed to avoid a lot of the issues we discuss on this blog. You have enough money, you are fit and beautiful, you are not hunched over an online dating site weeding out awful men. You have a swell husband, you are healthy, the kids are grown!
Time to reconnect and revive the romance lost between his car collection and your penchant for scrapbooks. What could go wrong?
In fact, you just hit the jackpot for the perfect full-time grandmother!
You go girl! But, don’t go too far, because a seven-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy are standing in your kitchen with overstuffed suitcases.
In fact, many grandparents today are stepping in to raise their grandchildren when the children’s own parents are not able or willing to do so. The U.S. Census of 2000 found that over 2.4 million grandparents have responsibility for their grandchildren.
Like those storm clouds on the horizon about to rain on your picnic, the signs were all there, but you ignored them. Now it’s raining buckets!
You are about to become a grandparent who can’t send the grandkids home to get a break. You may relinquish your Golden Years in order to take on the diapers, daycare, teacher conferences, driver’s ed, and everything else that comes along with raising children.
As it turns out, full-time grand-parenting is not for sissies!
Daily grandma is certainly not a role you expected, but you’re there, so let’s figure out the best way to handle the situation – if there is a best way.
Often, grandparents take on full-time care when the grandchildren’s own parents abandon them or when the children can no longer live with them because of the parent’s mental illness, addiction or incarceration. When this is the child’s background, you may have the added burden of caring for children who suffered from abuse or neglect from their own parents. The children may feel worried and afraid; they may be upset at being tossed around and feel angry about it. It will take time for these children to feel safe and secure.
You can encourage good feelings and ease the children’s adjustment to their new home in a number of ways.
Here are a few suggestions:
Try to provide a special place for the child and his/her belongings at the beginning of transition. Everyone needs their own space and a child with a disrupted background needs to feel safe and at home.
Set up a consistent routine for the children. Often, chaotic homes have no set routines for bathing, eating or sleeping. Predictability is lacking, but you can provide it.
Set up a few rules that the children can remember, and explain – sometimes frequently, why these rules are in place. Reward any good behavior with praise and acknowledgement. Remember to say ‘no’ and mean it if rules are broken.
Encourage outside activities and play-sports. ‘Play-sports’ means fun playing a sport, without having to be the best or cut from the team. Have fun with the children! There are wonderful places to visit and things to do in every town, and even more to do if you live in the country or on a farm.
Read to the children! Even infants have been found to love a story and the attention given by being read to. If the children can read for themselves, they still love a story and will like visiting the library and taking out their own books.
Take care of yourself! Take a break, get a trusted babysitter, find a support group.
- Here are some excellent resources for grandparents who are raising children.
AARP runs a Grandparent Information Center, where you can sign up for their newsletter, check their message board, and search for a local support group.
Generations United runs their own National Center on Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children, which offers information and resources. (www.gu.org/projg&o.htm).
The University of Wisconsin Extension produced a series of factsheets titled Through the Eyes of a Child—Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (www.uwex.edu/relationships/).
The University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences has a website that carries links to all kinds of factsheets on child development.
For help in your particular State, there is a series of factsheets that have been produced by a national partnership among the Children’s Defense Fund, AARP, Casey Family Programs, National Center for Resource Family Support, Brookdale Foundation, Child Welfare League of America, Generations United, the Urban Institute, and Johnson & Hedgpeth Consultants.
Much of this seems very daunting at first, but you may find raising grandchildren most rewarding!
You are appreciated, and there is much help out there to assist you.
Thank you for what you are doing!