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From Parent to Grandparent & Back Again

When we go from parent to grandparent and back again, we often are encountering both the difficult reasons we are back in the parenting role and the pressure of rearing children in our elder years. Reasons grandparents step into parent may be related to the death of a child, imprisonment, substance abuse, neglect, or other absence. All possibilities create a hurdle for both grandparent and child to overcome.

What are the goalposts to keep in mind when taking on this challenge?

First and foremost must be in the best interests of the child or children. They are usually the innocents who are thrust into a difficult situation without the maturity or means of taking care of themselves. Brainstorming the needs of Grands who become permanent members of your household requires a hard look at physical space, physical needs of children, educational levels and needs, social needs, and the deep emotional needs that will help stabilize their young lives.

Sitting down with a counselor may be an important and necessary step. Ask about resources in your community, age-specific needs of children, and likely scenarios to expect as emotions play out. What counseling might be necessary to help children deal with the transition? Don’t forget to consider your own needs in the process. If you’ve taken on parenting as a grandparent, your life just changed dramatically.

What is the financial situation for the new multi-gen family? Will you need assistance and is it available? Are other family members able to pitch in to help?

Another goal to consider is the possibility of reconciliation with parents. Is this a possibility or is the separation permanent or long-term? How you interact with and navigate the emotions of the children will be affected by this factor. Here again, housing, finances, and education will be affected based on the term of the multi-gen household. Setting realistic expectations in children, perhaps with the help of a professional family counselor, may help stabilize. Children have vivid imaginations and often look for the storybook ending, even if it is not possible as would be the case with the death of a parent(s). Truth delivered with kindness and love can be a powerful healer and help bring acceptance into the new family situation.

Going back to being parents for Grands is happening more frequently in our tumultuous society. It’s a discussion we see often in grandparenting articles and blogs. It’s not what any of us expect or hope for. But. Hope for the most stable and productive future for our Grands may require that we step into the parent zone again.

If it is required of you, know that the lives of the little ones you love may be dramatically affected by how well and how carefully you take on the responsibilities and challenges of your new role. Give it your best and get help when you need it!


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