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Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

There is a family phenomenon that you may face now as you should be heading into a leisurely life of a senior citizen and retirement.  But if you find that you are being called upon to raise your own grandchildren, that is a senior citizen lifestyle that is very different than what was expected.  It might be somewhat comforting to know that the incidences of grandparents being called upon to raise their grandchildren is more common now than ever before.  But the fact that a lot of senior citizens have to raise their grandkids doesn’t make it any easier to face that challenge yourself.

There are a lot of reasons why senior citizens find themselves raising their grandchildren.  The nature of the problem will say a lot about how you approach the many issues of child rearing.  The reasons range from death of the parents to situations of abuse, drug or alcohol difficulties or if your child had the baby out of wedlock.  So the extent to which you can have the birth parent active in the life of the baby will be driven by the severity of the reason you are being asked to become a parent a second time around.

Probably the biggest question you will be asked is what to tell the child.  Honesty is so important in raising children.  It won’t take them long to figure out that his or her “parents” are a lot older than the other children’s parents.  So if you can be honest, while that creates other anxieties in the child, those are much healthier for him or her to confront than dealing with being deceived about parentage issues.

If you have the birth mother living with you as well, that can be good or bad.  As the girl’s parents, you will be doing her a favor if you enable her to serve in her own parental role as much as she possibly can.  The ideal situation would be if the child knew this was his or her mom rather than go down the road of saying she is an older sister.   Then you can serve in the capacity of caregivers and facilitators but still allow that natural mother/child bond to help both grow into those roles.  It may be hard in the short term but as the child grows older, you and your daughter will be glad you made the effort to handle the issue this way.

The availability of other family members will also be a factor in the demands of parenthood.  Children are active little creatures and they love to run and play actively, especially with their parents.  But sometimes senior citizens are not as much the run and play type, and more the cuddle and read a story kind of parents.  If the child has uncles or aunts living nearby who can step in and provide that kind of support to the child, that will take some pressure off of you to try to keep up with the kiddos.

As you step into the role of parent of your own grandchild, it’s proper although a bit frightening to look down the road 18 years and wonder, will I make it?  It’s a fair question and one you need to make provision for.  Any parent provides for their child in the event of their death and in the case of seniors raising children, those provisions are even more important.  But the provisions don’t just end with financial support.  If Grandpa and Grandma both pass away before the child is done growing up, there should be a natural and acceptable home for that child to go to that will be comfortable for them and where they can continue to grow and learn with as little interruption as possible.

Short of the death of your children, don’t discount the return of your child to assume the role of parent again.  You don’t want this to be a hostile interruption.  If there was abuse or substance problems, there will be legal oversight and a social worker will have to be involved to determine if your son or daughter is capable of being a parent.  But if they can accept that responsibility and they are prepared to both love and care for the child, then you can hand that responsibility over and feel fulfilled that you did your part to assure your precious grandchild was properly cared for when he or she needed you the  most.



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