What happens when you are both the parent and grandparent?
The number of grandparents raising their children has been on a continual increase over the last few years. The reasons are varied (more on that in a minute), but one thing remains a constant; babies need and deserve the very best this world has to offer in love and security. They are here not of their choosing, but because of the actions and choices of the ones who made him/her.
The primary reason for the role of grandparents as parents seems to stem from one of two reasons: a) the increase in teen pregnancies or b) mothers who are unfit and unable to care for their babies due to their dependencies and addictions to drugs and alcohol.
Other reasons for grandparents taking on the role of parents include:
- Illness or death of a parent
- Imprisonment of a parent
- Military deployment of a parent
- Neglect and abuse and/or abandonment of a child by a parent
I don’t know if I can do this
Parenting your grandchild comes with its own special set of circumstances. It is important to identify any of these that apply to your situation and deal with them accordingly. Ignoring a situation or feelings does NOT make it go away. Instead, what ends up happening is the child (who is completely innocent) bears the weight of any or all issues and problems instead of feeling loved and secure. To keep this from happening to you, consider each of the following statements carefully and take the necessary steps to make things better.
- Feelings of inadequacy. You ‘messed up’ raising your daughter (why else would she be on drugs) so what if you mess up again?
First of all, the fact that your daughter is addicted and dependent is not something you can take complete blame for. I say ‘complete’ because there are times when parents do ignore the signs of rebellion and usage, allow children too much freedom or live in denial. But there are also times when teens turn their backs on parents who should and could easily win ‘best parent of the year’ award-who do everything right to no avail.
In other words, quit trying to deflect the responsibility for your daughter’s problem from where it belongs (on her) to yourself. Instead, embrace your grandchild and give them what they need and deserve…your love and a happy, secure home.
- Resentment. You raised your children. You don’t want to raise another one.
If this is you, then you need to do one of two things: 1. Deal with the resentments without blaming a child who didn’t ask to be born. 2. Don’t raise the child.
If you are resentful you need to discover and admit who you are resentful towards? Is it your daughter? The child? Once you know this, you need to take appropriate (and professional, if necessary) action to deal with it.
We all know the sacrifice and work that goes into being a parent. It’s not for the faint of heart. So if you cannot fully commit to loving and parenting your grandchild…don’t. There is no shame in admitting you just don’t have it in you. You and your grandchild will be better off if they are raised by parents who truly desire to do so. Placing the child with another family would allow you to remain solely in the role of grandparent.
- Age and health. If you are older and/or have chronic ailments that will interfere with your ability to parent adequately, don’t be afraid to enlist the help of others. Young mothers or a trusted teenager or two can do much to help you with the child and around the house.
The ‘how’ of parenting your grandchild depends on why you are in that situation in the first place.
If your daughter is a teenage mother who is living with you while trying to finish high school and/or college, your role as parent should remain with your child-not your grandchild. Your role should be that of mentor and helper. Mentor your daughter to be a loving, involved, patient, caring and enthusiastic parent. Yes, she’ll need help in carrying the load she’s carrying, but make sure you keep yourself in a supportive-not starring-role.
If you are acting as the interim parent due to military deployment, you will need to be an encourager and try to maintain a normalcy for the child during their parent’s absence. Don’t impose new rules (within reason) and do what you can to help them maintain communication with their parents. If the child is 2 or younger, the separation will be harder on the parent(s) than it will be the children. Your job then will be to keep the parents feeling as much a part of their child’s life as possible.
In the case of imprisonment, a child under the age of 2 will need nothing more than your love and care. An older child who recognizes the absence of their mother will need reassurance that their mother still loves them, but cannot be with them. If the child is school-age they are going to need extra ‘doses’ of self-confidence and self-esteem to help them overcome any stigmas they feel are attached to them.
The death or debilitating illness of a parent is one that calls for emotional fortitude from all directions. You will be hurting for the loss of your child, your grandchild will be hurting for the loss of their parent and you’ll be dealing with the adjustment in your household in the midst of your pain.
Embrace the situation-making the decision to find the joy of loving a child who is a product of your child-who needs to know there is hope for joy and a future.
When you are your grandchild’s parent, you need to make sure you have all the rights of a parent. This will happen by being recognized as the child’s legal guardian. Being recognized by the law as their guardian/parent, you will be able to consent to seek medical care and treatment, you will be able to enroll them in school, have access to their grades and will be able to have control over any financial matters separate from your own in their interest.
The heart of the matter
No matter what the circumstances, any child is a child deserving of love, security and a happy, healthy, thriving home. If their only chance at that is through you, don’t resent it or feel ashamed of the circumstance. Embrace the challenge and your grandchild and love them with everything you have within you.
Other articles that may interest you:
How to connect with grandparents
Stop grandparents from spoiling your kid