Making the move: Adjusting to living with your child's family
Dec 30, 2011, 6 a.m.
The 2010 U.S. Census tally of children under age 18 that are living with grandparents now numbers over 4.9 million. This seems to be a trend, up from around 2 million in 2000. The reasons for grandparents living with adult children and/or caring for grandchildren either at their home or at their child’s home are many. The poor economy, drug use, the need for both parents to work, expense of child care and other factors have ended retirement plans for many grandparents as they again take up the duties of raising minor children. In many homes, it is the single grandmother raising grandchildren. She may be a widow or divorcee looking to occupy her free time during retirement; she enjoys being around her children and grandchildren.
A concern for many caretaker grandparents is raising children right. They watch how their own children “do things differently” than they did and are not happy with the results. So they step in to try to “help” their adult children. Some move into the child’s home, which causes adjustments for everyone. One problem that easily can occur is that adult children feel their authority is undermined and overruled by their older parents. Many grandchildren also respond more favorably to their grandparents, which can cause frustration for parents.
Special Attention Needed
When grandparents re-enter the parenting circle, they should try to enhance the experience for everyone. In addition to paying special attention to the grandchildren, it is advisable to also give their adult children some time and attention, even if only to avoid jealousy.
Here are some ideas for grandparents that must adjust to living with their child’s family:
- Give each grandchild an equal amount of attention and some regular “alone” time.
- Try not to take over their room for your sleeping quarters if possible. No child wants to give up their space.
- Help your adult child with household chores; make your presence a help and not a burden.
- Pay rent or some of their bills as a monetary contribution.
- Be sure to carve out some “alone” time for yourself, so the situation does not drive you up the walls.
- Remember that even the sweetest children can try your patience. Remain calm as best you can, do not take on the “bad guy” role in discipline; in fact, leave discipline to the adult children.
- Do not allow adult children to bully you or disrespect you. You have earned respect.
- Try not to butt into the relationship of your adult children. If they require your presence, they already are having a hard time. Don’t rub it in that “grandma knows best”.
- Take care of your health, your physical, spiritual, social and mental needs.
- Recognize that if you cannot afford to help, you cannot afford to live with your child’s family full-time. The last thing you want is to become dependent upon your children.
Being together will leave you with many happy memories and the children will never forget about their grandparent. In the “old days” many families lived with several generations under one roof. Mutual respect, boundaries, rules and sharing are key elements to making the group living situation work well for everyone.
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