Increasingly grandparents are taking full responsibility for raising their grandchildren because the children’s parents are either unable or unwilling to do so.
While these grandparents are often filled with love for the children, raising kids, especially the second time around, can be stressful. To make matters even more difficult, visits with the children’s natural parents may be an additional source of tension.
Time with Mummy and Daddy
It is natural for children to express love for and crave the time and attention of their parents. Children, especially young ones, are often innocent in their unwavering acceptance of their parents, even when the adults have proven themselves to be unsuitable candidates for the responsibilities of parenthood.
If at all possible, children should be allowed to have regular contact with their parents and should never be expected to “take sides” when it comes to disagreements between adults in the family. Both parents and grandparents must make every effort to consider the needs of the children, both physical and emotional.
Safe Visitation is Vital
Grandparents who are raising children are frequently put into the difficult position of arranging safe visitation between the children and their parents.
Depending on the reason(s) why the parents have given up daily care-taking duties for their children, grandparents may react to a request for visitation in varying ways.
If unsupervised contact with the parents puts the child in harm’s way, such as is the case if the parents are abusive or have substance addictions, grandparents may have to seek legal counsel in order to protect the kids. In general, laws are designed to protect and preserve the parent/child relationship, but in cases where the parents pose a risk to their children, it can be mandated that the parents have only supervised contact, or in extreme cases, no contact at all.
Negative feelings that may exist between the parents and grandparents are not sufficient reasons for denying parental visitation, but the safety of the children is an entirely different matter.
Adults Behaving Like Adults
In most cases, when grandparents are thrust into the roles of full time caretakers for their grandkids, it is because their adult son or daughter is not in a position to be a responsible parent.
Understandably, the grandparents may feel a certain level of disappointment in their children, but it is important for the grandchildren to be raised in a loving environment; one free from judgments and name-calling. Ideally, grandparents will relay stories about the children’s parents to the youngest family members in a loving manner, stressing that although the parents love the kids, they are just not up to taking care of them.
Honesty is important as children deserve to be told the truth about their family, but it should be done so in the gentlest possible way.
Sign of the Times
The increase of teenage pregnancy, coupled with ever-growing drug and alcohol problems, has resulted in a generation of children whose parents are increasingly incapable of providing hands-on care.
Compared to a few decades ago, the number of children being raised by grandparents or other family members has increased dramatically, with literally millions of children worldwide being cared for by someone other than their parents.
Considering the broad nature of the situation, it is clear that these children are not unique among their peer group. This commonality doesn’t mean, though, that the children do not feel sadness or loss because of their family dynamic.
While the kids are fortunate to be in the hands of loving grandparents, they may require counselling to help them sort out their mixed feelings about their parents. Ideally, the children will be able to have individual sessions and if needed, additional time for family therapy that includes the children’s parents and grandparents.
With the help of counselling, the adults may be able to come to an understanding regarding not only matters of parental visitation, but also other issues regarding the kids’ welfare.
Although it is not always possible to gather everyone, the effort is worthwhile – for the sake of the children.