When you finished raising your children and watched them walk out your front door to begin leading a life of their own, you likely experienced a mix of emotions: Pride in your mutual accomplishments, a twinge of loneliness, and even trepidation for what your life will mean as someone who is not 100 percent committed to parenthood. When your grandchildren were born, you likely thrilled at the opportunity to embrace the role of grandma or grandpa, a role defined by the ability to spoil your grandchild—without needing to discipline him or her or fully resume all the responsibilities of parenthood.
As a grandparent who loves their child and their grandchild, who has experienced this emotional arc of transitioning from parenthood to grandparenthood, what can you do when you believe your child needs your help, and more specifically, that your grandchild may be safer, happier, and healthier if entirely in your care? It is a possibility that would mean a return to parenthood and a new dynamic that will impact your entire family and is a decision that you must consider carefully.
When is it Time to Step In and Help?
According to an article from PBS, 2.7 million American grandparents are raising their grandchildren—and the number is on the rise, in significant part due to the opioid crisis impacting our nation. Your grandchild may be safer, healthier, and better cared for under your supervision and in your home, if you observe any of the following signs relating to his or parent(s):
- Frequent absence.
- Inability to hold a steady job.
- Substance abuse, especially if the parent is unable to cope with daily responsibilities or has become a danger to himself/herself of your grandchild.
- The presence of a debilitating mental health condition that leaves the parent unable to properly care for their child or makes them a danger to the child or themselves.
- An inability to properly care for the child financially or experiencing permanent or periods of homelessness.
- Violent behavior toward the child, including sexual abuse or harassment by anyone in the household (parents, step-parents, siblings, friends, or neighbors).
Resources for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Even with the best intentions and the greatest of love in your heart, it may be difficult to raise your grandchild. Not only may you need to overcome your grandchild’s emotional response to perceived feelings of abandonment by his or her parents, but you will need to take on the financial, physical, and emotional responsibilities of raising a child during your senior years. Always know that there are resources and organizations available and willing to help and offer support. What follows is a list of educational resources and organizations you can turn to for help:
- Help Guide – A non-profit website that provides grandparents with resources, tools, and tips for raising grandchildren.
- USA.gov – A federal resource that provides information about government benefits, social services, insurance, and financial planning information.
- AARP GrandFamilies Guide – Produced by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the comprehensive GrandFamilies Guide provides legal, financial, health insurance, education, and childcare resources and information.
- Daily Strength Grandparents Raising Children Support Group – An online community forum connecting grandparents who are raising their grandchildren to provide mutual support, advice, and resources.
No matter the challenges you face, remember to keep your family’s best interests at the heart of all your decision making. Never hesitate to reach out to obtain support, resources, or advice. With proper guidance, you can raise your grandchild confidently, and provide a safe, structured, and healthy household in which your grandchild will thrive.