Grandparents and other relatives raising and parenting children come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. We may be young grandparents in our 40's, retired grandparents living on social security, or anywhere in-between. Whatever our differences may be we all have one commonality. We are raising children that we had most likely not expected to be raising.
Our feelings and reactions to the situation will vary widely, depending on our health, our financial situation, and what other plans we had for our lives. It can be very difficult when our own feelings clash with each other. While we love these children we are parenting and would never want for them what the alternative might be, we may also feel that if we had done a better job as parents raising the first batch, we wouldn't be doing this all over again. So as grandparents, our feelings might feel like a pot of goulash, everything mixed in together.
Other relatives parenting children, such as aunts and uncles, may experience it differently. Though they may be willing and even happy to step in to raise and parent someone else's children, they know they didn't contribute to the parents' problems, so why are they picking up the pieces? Non-grandparent kinship parents do not usually deal with the guilt (warranted or not) of "what did we do wrong?"
Some situations might be very different than those described above. Grandparents and other kinship parents may be raising children because of the death of a parent or because a parent is in the military and unable to have their children with them. This is becoming more common every day with devastating results.
Some grandparents are raising children on an informal basis with no legal arrangement. This can cause many problems when it comes to enrolling children in school, obtaining medical and mental health services, and providing a secure and stable environment for children.
Other grandparents have obtained the legal status necessary to safely and properly take care of the grandchildren, but have often spent many thousands of dollars in legal fees in the process, many even dipping into their retirement programs, taking out second mortgages on their homes, and paying legal fees with credit cards. This does not happen in all cases but in many.
Whatever our situation, one thing is clear; our lives have changed with the addition of someone else's children. The change may bring happiness or sadness, but there is a change. And with that change, comes stress. Understanding the stress and finding proper ways to deal with it is vital for our own emotional and physical health as well as for the health of our children.
Parenting grandchildren is different
than parenting your own children:
The closest thing you can compare some grandparents'
experiences with is a really ugly divorce where everyone
fights about who should have the children or how they should
be raised. When a grandparent is raising grandchildren, they
are also often dealing with their own adult child who may be
angry, mentally ill, incarcerated, or just plain having
terrible issues to deal with themselves. A grandparent may
be faced with "should I adopt my grandchildren or
not? Should I seek full custody or just temporarily take the
children into my home?" This is not something they had to
face when they were raising their own children.
Another big issues is the mental
health of the grandchildren who may have a history of
physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Many grandparents get
children who have either been abused or suffer from a
variety of mental health issues. As parents, these
grandparents may have dealt with these same issues with
their own children but not when they first got them.
Many times grandparents are raising
grandchildren who came to them on a moment's notice.
Sometimes it is the opposite. The grandparents started off
as part-time caregivers. Then one day, they found themselves
"caregiving" full-time and were then faced with the legal
issues of what to do next.
So while the simple issues of "go sit
in time-out for 5 minutes and think about what you did," may
be the same as what the average parent might do, most
everything else is very different. New skills need to be
developed by most grandparents on how to deal with
emotionally battered or neglected children to dealing with
the other adults who may or may not be an
Every situation is different, but
lucky is the grandparent who does not have some of the
difficult challenges faced by many grandparents raising