Lenora Madison Poe, Ph.D.
Licensed family & child therapist
Why More and More Grandparents Are Raising Kids
We still have a lot of pressure out there in the world and there are many reasons parents arenít able to care for their children Ė reasons like drug use or incarceration, domestic violence, military deployment, financial problems, unexpected death in the family, mental illness. So to keep the family together, a grandparent will step in to prevent their grandchild from getting into the foster care system. What comes with this is many arenít prepared. This is a huge sacrifice and commitment. No one plans for this kind of responsibility.
Put Your Own Physical & Emotional Needs First
If grandparents don't properly take care of themselves, they canít take care of their grandchild. Itís common for a grandparent to feel that they need to spend all of their time to help that child because theyíre emotionally and socially distraught. But, youíve got to put yourself in the system of care, because although kids have so many needs Ė academically, socially, mentally, emotionally, etc. you have needs too. Remember, if the childís parents arenít able to care for their child, and then the grandparent gets sick or passes away, whoís left to help?
When a Grandparent Becomes Primary Care Provider
There are many changes Ė financially, physically, emotionally, etc. One of the biggest challenges for those grandparents who have adult children unfit to take care of their own kids, is that the birthparents may still be the custodial parent, but are in and out of the childís life. Plus, itís common for the kids to have a sense of loyalty to parents, but the grandparents have responsibility to take care of them, so it blurs the lines of whoís responsible. Thatís why creating a positive environment is so important to make the child feel safe and loved.
Where to Go for Help
There are a lot of services out there nationally but we need more. Grandparents should look into support groups, family therapy, even tutors for Grandparents. Remember that itís OK to ask questions, and get help, and make mistakes. Nationally, other resources include Generations United, The Child Welfare League of America, and AARP for help in your area. Itís also important to be an advocate for your grandchild, so contact social services, and if youíre not getting the answers you need, keep calling until somebody can help. Speak up, do not be docile, let everyone know -- we need help for ourselves and our grandkids. Make the schools aware of your family changes. Also, religious organizations are a great help to grandparents.
Planning for the Future
Planning for the future is very important, who will care for the child if the grandparent passes on? Most grandparents do not have wills should something happen to them plus they need to plan appropriately fiscallyóitís important to look at matters beyond the emotional or stresses in this situation.
Helping a Grandchild Adjust
Many of these kids are emotionally damaged because of abandonment, so kids are emotionally fragile. For a grandparent, boundaries are important, routine is important.
There are also many good things by being in this situation. Raising your grandkids helps a grandparent keep feeling young. They are in a ďkidsĒ world again. Also, many say ďIím here for my grandkids; theyíre going to be here for me in the future. Plus, grandparents raising their grandkids keep the family unity together. Grandparents are doing something positive, and saving these precious kids. They get back unconditional love, and are proud that theyíre providing support to this reconstituted family.
Eve Del Real
Child Care Provider for 3 years
We try to help out grandparents who are raising children by providing them with a lot of information. When they come to us with questions or concerns, whether itís about the child or a legal situation, we sit down with them and offer advice. We also share with them things the child has done while in our care, such as drawings or crafts, and we keep them updated on the childís progress.
Grandparents should have a backup plan. If they are incapacitated in any way, who will care for their grandchild? This is another source of stress for the grandparents because they are concerned that they wonít be around for their grandkids. But itís very important that they have an emergency plan in place.