Parenting Déjà vu: Raising Your Grandchildren
You probably have many memories of raising your own children. You may remember special milestones such as their first words, the first visit from the tooth fairy, the way they clutched your hand when the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz swooped out of the sky. And now, decades later, you may be reliving those moments again. Except this time, the child in your home is your grandchild.
Millions children live in households headed by grandparents. These are often called “grandfamilies” or “second families.” Below are some strategies to make second parenthood easier.
You will need help from friends, family, and other grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. Set up a support network that will be available when you need it:
Ask for help. Other members of your family, community, and circle of friends may want to lend a hand but don’t know how. Meet with them and give some specific ideas about the kind of support you or your grandchildren may need. If you are still in the workforce while raising grandchildren, you may need a trusted friend or relative to babysit if your children get sick on a work day.
Look for a support group. You can find online support through AARP. Check the community announcements in your local paper to find groups near you.
Reach out to community agencies. Talk to the counselor at your grandchild’s school about support services. You can also go through your local YMCA, parenting centers, or other family services groups.
Do your homework
Talk with the other adults in your grandchild’s world. It can be helpful to talk to daycare providers, teachers, doctors, social workers, and others who have had contact with the child. They can help you find out what you need to provide the best care.
Become your grandchild’s advocate
About half of households headed by grandparents have no biological parent in the home. That means the responsibility is yours to find the services, education, and support the child needs. Also, grandchildren who live with their grandparents may have more physical, emotional, and mental disabilities than other children. Grandparents may find it harder to get schools and other service providers to pay attention.
Children require a surprising amount of paperwork. Set up a filing system so that you can keep track of all the important documents, medical records, and notes about conversations related to their care, not to mention the vast amount of artwork they will bring home to you.
Obtain legal guardianship and related paperwork
To see to all of the basic care duties, like getting medical care or registering a child for school, you will need to have the correct paperwork. This includes:
Social security card
Legal documents giving you guardianship or custody
Power of attorney or other consent forms from the parents
Military papers, if one or both parents are military and deployed
Health insurance information, if provided by the parents
Income information, to apply for free or reduced-price lunch, for example
Visit www.grandfamilies.org for more information about legal and policy issues that affect grandfamilies.
Review your housing
Many grandparents own their own home. For those who are living in senior housing, the presence of a grandchild can pose problems. Find out if lease agreements or contracts allow your grandchild to live with you. If not, you may need to find other housing.
Take time for you
Even if you have the best of intentions toward your children and grandchildren, raising grandchildren can be stressful and, for many people, exhausting. You may feel under so much pressure that you become vulnerable to depression and other stress-related illnesses. It’s important to take the time you need to maintain your friendships, keep a job, and take care of yourself. Seek treatment for any depression or anxiety so you can be the best caregiver possible for your young loved one.