Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: 3 Tips to Help You Survive the Transition
More grandparents are taking on a second round of parenting with their grandchildren than ever before.
With ages ranging from newborn to teenagers, grandparents are increasingly stepping up to raise their grandchildren. Often the grandchildren may be confused, scared, or angry – sometimes all three!
Why are so many grandparents raising grandchildren?
The main reason is that they don’t want their grandchildren to get placed into foster care. Many times an adult child who has a substance abuse problem is unable to care for their own children any longer. The increase in opioid abuse has resulted in more children living with grandparents due to child abuse, neglect, and the parent dying from overdose. Along with substance abuse, grandparents also will take in grandchildren due to the mental illness of an adult child, or child abuse and neglect that the adult child is inflicting on their own children.
It is incredibly painful to know your child is unable to raise their own children, whatever the reason.
With more grandparents than ever raising grandchildren we make a top 3 list of helpful tips to help you and your grandchildren adjust to the change.
Tip #1: Accept your feelings, both the good and the bad.
You may be feeling a range of emotions at the moment. Some will be positive emotions, like the love you have for your grandchildren, and the joy of being able to give them a stable environment to grown in. Others feelings may be harder to accept, such as anger, resentment, or fear.
It is important to accept and acknowledge any emotions you have, both positive and negative. It is okay to have doubts or misgivings. These feelings don’t mean that you don’t love your grandchildren!
The most important thing here is that we don’t want our grandchildren to have to carry the burden of our negative feelings. Find someone to talk to – whether it be a counselor, close friend, or support group – to help you vent, manage your feelings, and find the positive in the situation.
Tip #2: Encourage open communication with your grandchildren.
One of the best things you can do to help your grandkids cope is to communicate open and honestly. Give them regular opportunities to talk to you without the distractions of television, tablets, or cell phones. Some kids may struggle to express their emotions, and you can help them learn to identify them by asking questions; you could say “You seem upset – is something bothering you?”
Encourage them to talk about their feelings (both good and bad) without judging or dismissing their feelings.
Other kids may not have the verbal communication skills and will express themselves through their behaviour. They may behave aggressively or inappropriately, or they may push you away. Remember that children often act out once they are in a safe place; this behaviour doesn’t mean that you’re doing a bad job, but that they finally feel secure enough to show their true feelings.
Tip #3: Focus on creating a secure and stable environment.
Allow your grandchildren to help pack and move their belongings as much as they can for their age, as well as allowing them to arrange their new room as they like. Having some control over their environment can make the adjustment easier. Make sure that each grandkid has their own private space, even if this means using a divider to give them a small area in a bigger room.
Children thrive when they have an environment that is predictable, so set a schedule for meals and bedtimes.
Routines are important; if Mom or Dad have visitation with the children, try to get those visits on a schedule as well. Set clear, age appropriate rules and be consistent in enforcing them. Boundaries allow children to feel safe and protected, and they’ll feel more secure when they know what you expect.
Remember: You've done this before, and you can do it again!
Your grandchildren are lucky to have your attention, time, and reassuring presence. Accept support as it comes to you, maintain a routine, and provide loving consistency – these will be your keys to success.
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