Surviving as a Grandparent Raising a Grandchild

I wanted to share some thoughts about how to “survive” as a grandparent raising grandchildren. I actually hope that these thoughts will not only allow you to “survive” but actually to “thrive” in your endeavor. I am going to use the word, “Survive” as an acronym to help us thing about the tools that empower us as grandparents.

Seek Support – It is very difficult to do this by ourselves. We need to seek the support of a team of people who can help us and our grandchildren. Fortunately, Allene and I have the support of many family members that have been awesome, and definitely are a vital part of our team. Seek out a support group in your area. We are in the process of starting our second support group. We started one in Arizona, and now after being in North Carolina for a year, are starting a support group here. Seek out local non-profit organizations for assistance and support. You can check out our new website, to see what are some national organizations that can provide some support.

Understand the Paradox – The journey of raising a grandchild is quite the rollercoaster ride. It is full of “joys” and “challenges”, and unfortunately, we don’t get to choose which we experience when. The choice to raise your grandchildren is a choice that you would make again in a heartbeat, and yet, a choice that you wish that you had never had to make. It is important that we give ourselves permissions to experience both the joys and the challenges. We are human and this will definitely always be a human experience. Give yourself permission to be “Human”.

Respite – We will need time of respite. The term “respite” means a short time of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant. Yes, at times it is very difficult and even unpleasant. We need time for ourselves and it is important to find people who can offer us periods of a break. That can be for an afternoon or for a weekend. The time of respite is vital for both you and your grandchildren. You both win! So, it is important to seek people who would be willing to help out with the care of your grandchild for an afternoon or even a weekend. I do understand that for some grandparents, find these people can be challenging.

View – In order to survive our experience, we will need to adjust our view of our circumstances and the world that we live in. I facilitated a grief recovery group for six years. One of the principles we used in the group was that, “The world as you knew it, no longer exists”, related to how the world has changed because of your loss of your loved one. A similar principle applies here. The world as we knew it, before we took custody of our grandchildren, no longer exists. Our world is totally different. It has affected us financially, socially and physically. A key is to find our way to seeing that we now have a new “purpose” in life and that we are committed to succeeding at accomplishing that new purpose. In many ways, gaining a new purpose can be a blessing for us, as well as our grandchildren.

Initiate Boundaries – I will be honest in that initiating and maintaining boundaries has been a lifelong challenge for me. Allene is much better at it than I am. That being said, I do understand the importance and value of boundaries. Boundaries provide us with a sense of identity and security, for ourselves, as well as, our grandchildren. We need to establish and maintain healthy and effective boundaries in our role as a parent. Unfortunately, we don’t get to be the weekend grandparents that come in and spoil the grandchildren, and then send them back home to their parents. Our grandchildren, don’t go back home. They are home! Although they can be challenging to implement and maintain, effective and consistent do the hard work of parenting for us and provide our grandchildren with the safe parameters to grow into becoming healthy and productive adults, eventually. We will also have to maintain healthy boundaries with our grandchildren’s biological parents, if they are still involved in their lives. That can be very challenging at times. Often, you are having to battle your own biological children in the best interest of your grandchildren.

Venture Back To School – Yes, you may have to be a part of your grandchildren’s school experience, which you had not quite planned on, but I am talking about the need for us, as grandparents going back to school ourselves. The world that we raised our children in, no longer exists. We are raising our grandchildren in a very different world from the world that we grew up in or raised our children in. We may need to go back to school in some way to learn about the new technological world that our grandchildren are living in. One way we can do this is to get to know younger parents, either in your own family or through your grandchildren’s school or your religious organization. Don’t be afraid to hang out with younger parents. You will probably both benefit from the relationship. We also need to be open to learning new techniques and strategies to parenting. We have learned a lot in recent years about how to help children grow and develop in a positive manner. I would suggest doing some reading or attending a parenting workshop that focuses on positive parenting techniques and strategies.

Experience and Express – I love these two words. In my mind and experience, they are the key to emotional, relational and physical healthiness. The word “depress” literally means to “push down”. When we push down our emotions, it can often lead to some level of depression. The opposite of depression is “expression”. Children experience and express naturally. The experience anger or pain, they express their anger or pain, and then they go play. It is only later in life that we start to learn “not” to experience and not to express our emotions. Unfortunately, the consequence is that we don’t get to go “play”, because we have not completed the healthy process of emotional experiencing and expression. Learning how to improve our emotional intelligence, awareness and expression is vital to our emotional, relational and physical well-being. We can express ourselves through talking, writing, art or physical activity. This is why finding a support group or a group of good friends is so important for grandparents raising grandchildren. Experience and Express!

So, hopefully these thoughts are helpful for you as you continue your journey of a grandparent raising grandchildren. You and your grandchildren deserve not only to survive, but to thrive! You can do it!

Sharing the Journey,

Rich (Pops)

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I have been involved in the field of Human Services for 30 plus years. I teach in the field of Human Services for Purdue University Global. Allene is a stay at home "Lolli", after spending many years in the Healthcare field. We have 3 adult children and in May, 2018, we adopted our granddaughter, who is 6 years-old. We have had her since she was 5 months old. At the end of 2019, we moved to Mount Airy, North Carolina, as a part of a plan to downsize and give Allene the chance to retire, and be at home full-time. We are devoted to making a difference in Sebellah's life and also in the lives of other grandparents raising grandchildren.

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