Grandparents Parenting Grandchildren by Ebony Bailey, LPC MHSP
Back in September I was fortunate to have an opportunity to attend a Grandparents’ Day celebratory event at the Universal Parenting Place at Knowledge Quest. One woman stood up and shared with the group how she is raising five of her 12 grandchildren. Her comment sparked this thought in my mind about multigenerational households, and households where the primary caregiver is a generation or two removed from youth(s) being reared.
These households are codified as the Three-Generational Households and the Skipped Generation Households. These type of households are not new, but they are making a comeback due to various contributing factors.
Take the three-gen households, in general, most American families find their way here because of economic, housing, and healthcare issues. This multigenerational household includes the grandparent(s), the parent(s) and the children.
In the Skipper Generation Households, only the custodial grandparent(s) and grandchildren reside in the household. This type of household could be due to the parent’s death, child abuse, substance abuse, incarceration, mental illness or the parent is not able parent alone and is need of a stable household for their children. Often times grandparents will choose to raise their grandchildren to prevent them from going into state’s custody.
Making It Work
In households where only the grandparent and grandchildren reside in the home, it is common for grandparents to feel stressed and overwhelmed due to the additional responsibility. It’s a huge leap from having occasional visits to being a full-time parent again. Some helpful solutions include:
- – sticking to a routine for the morning times, and after school and bedtime hours with your grandchildren
- – establishing new family traditions and incorporating the old ones that were effective
- – being honest with yourself about what you can handle can ward off unnecessary stress
- – acknowledging emotional responses, including feelings of anger or resentment towards the child’s parents, and working through those feelings with help from supportive individuals
- – take care of yourself!
Keeping Yourself Healthy
Grandparents who take on the responsibility of raising their grandchildren may experience challenges along way. To buffer the stress that naturally ensues, it is vital to take time “in” for self-care by doing activities that are enjoyable and rebooting for the mind and body.
One grandparent, Ms. L, shared how she makes her self-care routine a top priority. This is what she credits her ability to remain fully active as a co-parent for her grandchildren. She happily shared how rewarding it has been to have daily “cuddle time” with her granddaughters. Also, seek out support groups or individual counseling so that you are receiving the support needed as a caregiver. Lastly, make connections with other parents and relative caregivers to discover common bonds. Ms. L’s advice to grandparents who find themselves doing it all over again is, “Don’t give up on your grandchildren or their parents no matter the cause of the current circumstance.”
Ebony K. Bailey, LPC MHSP has been practicing psychotherapy since 2005. She currently serves at the Clinical Coordinator of the Universal Parenting Places for the ACE Awareness Foundation. On a regular basis she meets individually and in group with the UPP site directors to discuss clinical programing that primarily focuses on mitigating adverse childhood experiences through family systems therapy.
AARP Grand Facts, AARP
The Return of the Multi-Generational Family Household, Pew Research Center
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, HelpGuide.org