Grandparents: You Are Not Alone

July 12, 2016

According to the 2010 U.S. Census data, grandparents are the primary caregivers in 4.9 million families in the country. That’s a significant number, but it’s suspected to have grown given the economic situation our country has faced over the past six years. Grandparents take over caring for their grandchildren because their children can no longer parent for a variety of reasons, such as job loss, divorce, health problems, death, mental disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, or incarceration.

Many grandparents who have stepped in to prevent their grandchildren from going into foster care find that parenting the second time around is a much different experience than being a mom or dad. Difficulties may arise with children who have experienced experienced neglect, trauma, or even abuse at the hands of a mentally ill or addicted parent, which in turn leads to fear, confusion, and anxiety. Often these circumstances lead to behavioral issues that must be addressed carefully.

In addition to trying to help their hurting grandchildren, grandparents often find that school standards and teaching methods have changed dramatically since their own children were in school. Not to mention, the grandparents’ energy levels aren’t what they were twenty or more years ago when they were raising their sons and daughters.

While the challenges may be harder than one might admit, grandparents often provide stable, loving homes for their grandchildren, serving as dedicated caregivers who can help children overcome the challenges of their early life—especially with a little help.

Where to start

Start by knowing your rights. In order to enroll your grandchildren in school, gain access to their medical records, or prevent them from returning to a bad situation, you’ll need some type of legally official guardianship. We highly recommend you consult with a family law attorney to learn more about your rights concerning the care of your grandchild.

If your are in school, meet with the children’s teachers to find out about their grades and behaviors, what challenges they face, what resources are available, and how you can help. When teachers know you are interested in making sure your grandchild succeeds, they will be more likely to contact you about potential problems. If you haven’t been actively involved in your grandchild’s life, the teacher may be able to help you identify key issues they may face, such as anxiety, anger or fear.

Ask for help

Many resources exist for grandparent caregivers. If your grandchild needs counselling, talk to the school, your grandchild’s pediatrician, or clergy at your local church. They will be able to recommend counselors for both you and your grandchildren. Regardless of how much you love your children and your grandchildren, relinquishing your grip on the empty nest or retirement goals can sometimes prove difficult. Many grandparent caregivers report initial feelings of loneliness and depression.  There is nothing to be ashamed of in seeking the help you need.

Find a community

While most of your friends may not be caring for their grandchildren, millions of other grandparents across the United States are. Palmer Home’s Whole Child Initiative offers an online community forum where you can ask questions and receive answers from our experts, as well as from other grandparents and parents. In addition to the forum, you’ll find rich resources to help you restore and maintain your grandchild’s physical, educational, emotional and spiritual well-being. Most importantly, we want you to know that you don’t have to go through this alone.

If you need help getting started, knowing what questions to ask, or where to find resources, our community of caregivers and experts is ready to help.

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