You may be a fit and active grandma or grandpa, but I’ll bet you didn’t count on raising your grandchildren. No matter the circumstances, there they are, those little ones who need so much love and attention and now you’re responsible for them. There is undoubtedly some heartache involved, but you’re up to the task.
Between 2000 and 2005 in the United States, the number of children being raised by their grandparents increased by 25%. And today the numbers are higher and continue to grow. Though there are many stressors in raising grandchildren, being older is not necessarily one of them. More and more couples are waiting to have their children at an older age and so grandparents blend right in with parent groups. But, you are in your fifties or sixties and you don’t have the stamina you did when younger. Here are four tips to set boundaries in this honorable task of raising your grandchildren.
You aren’t alone in taking on this giant task. There are other grandparents sprinkled throughout your community who would love to sit and share a few ideas and war stories with you. There are also professionals—counselors, social workers, psychologists, who have expertise to share. Seek out a local group through community services or find others in similar circumstances through churches, community groups, or your friends and relatives. It’s always helpful to share your struggles with others and be able to give support to those who are living the same life you’re living day to day. Protect your mental well-being.
You aren’t the same person you were twenty years ago when you raised your own family. You’re older, wiser and you also have limitations. Your energy levels and stamina aren’t what they used to be even if you’re healthy and fit. Don’t overdo. Take good care of your own health needs—you won’t be a better parent figure if you’re sick. Take on a reasonable load of volunteering, afterschool classes, and the like. Your grandchildren need you first and foremost, not a schedule full of activities. Spend quiet time for yourself daily. Be proactive in being kind to yourself.
Protect Your Relationships with Spouse and Friends
Adding children to a formerly quiet home is a shock. There is noise. There are messes. Your nice, peaceful schedule is no more. In the middle of the adjustment to your new responsibilities, you need to talk with your spouse and protect the communication lines. Set aside time to do some of the things you took for granted before taking on the new role. Make time for friends whenever possible. It’s a balancing act for sure, but so important. You don’t want to find yourself resenting the grandchildren and damaging the relationship you have with them.
Seek Legal Counsel
There are many issues that need to be defined through legal channels when grandparents are called upon to parent. There are health concerns that can only be decided by the legal guardians. There are schooling decisions and the eligibility for tax credits and low-cost insurance which you’ll need to understand. An attorney can help you sort through all the paperwork of raising grandchildren and avoid custody issues, major decision-making issues and ultimately the power you have over your own home.
If you have taken on this awesome job of parenting your grandchildren, good for you. The children will benefit in major ways and you’ll be immensely blessed. But there will be tough days and you’ll be thankful that you’ve set some boundaries in place as you walk this challenging road.
For some helpful information and links to support see:
An article in The Examiner by Robin Wulffson M.D.