There are challenges in raising grandchildren for both the grandparents and the children themselves. No matter the events leading up to the decision, the children will have gone through disruption to their lives. They may be in deep grief or be feeling abandonment. They will have physical and emotional needs—gaps that need filling.
You, too, will have needs. You’ll need to deal with the realities of starting over again in the child-rearing process. You’ll need to take care of yourself physically, emotionally and count the cost financially.
Physically: Take good care of your own physical needs. Get proper rest and nutrition. Take some time out of a full schedule to relax. Stay current in check-ups and any health concerns.
Emotionally: Be honest about the cost to you emotionally. You, too, have had your life disrupted and are giving up some of the benefits of those “golden years” to take care of these grandchildren.
Financially: There will be strains on your bank account whether you are taking on the entire burden, or there are resources from the parents or other family members.
Here is a list of things you can do to get started off on the right foot with the huge task of taking your grandchildren into your home.
1) Set routines and stick to them. Children will do better when meals, bedtimes, homework and play times are scheduled regularly. Make sure there are fun times in the schedule, and leave time for free, creative play that allows children to use their imaginations. Limit television and video game times.
2) Create space especially for the children. This may be a bedroom space or an area of the living or family room where the children have some ownership.
3) Listen to them. Give them time to talk about their thoughts, their fears, their troubles and their joys.
4) Set a few clear rules and enforce them consistently. Typically children in transition have had inconsistent expectations and are easily confused about what is okay and what is not.
5) Be quick to reward good behavior and minimize the negatives. Children need to know they’re loved all the time no matter what their behavior. Make infraction of rules a time to teach. Consequences must be free of high emotion and must be in line with the severity of the poor behavior. Make a way for children to compensate for the wrong they’ve done.
6) Be as involved in their school experiences as possible. Take advantage of school supports such as counselors, after-school classes, sporting events, carnivals, and whatever else the school does to help family life thrive.
7) Seek out a larger social group to belong to as a family. This may be a church or a social club, a hobby group or a sporting group.
8) Seek the help of professionals when necessary. Children may benefit from counseling sessions to help them deal with their sadness and their problems.
Raising grandchildren can be stressful, but it can also offer opportunities for great joy and satisfaction. The bond between the generations can be stronger than imagined. And grandparents have the added benefit of years of experience and wisdom gained by living their own lives well.
You’re raising your grandchildren? Good for you. Enjoy every day and every experience, because as you well know, the time flies by.