Becoming a parent to a grandchild - advice and resources

Oct 13, 2011, 9:14 a.m.

Becoming a parent to a grandchild: Advice and resources

More and more grandparents today are finding themselves caring for their grandchildren. These are people who have raised their own children and thought they were done being parents, but now they have found themselves in that role once again. That can come about through the death of a parent, or through circumstances in which the parent can no longer effectively care for his or her children. Becoming a parent to a grandchild can be stressful, but there are things you can do in order to make it easier and reap all of the rewarding benefits.

You'll want to make the transition from their parents' house to yours as easy as possible. Hopefully, you already have an established relationship with your grandchildren, which will make things less difficult. Even if you don't have much of a relationship with them, though, you can still make your grandchildren comfortable by explaining to them (at an age-appropriate level) what's taking place. Children shouldn't be kept in the dark about why their lives are changing and they have to live with someone else.

In addition to explaining to your grandchildren what's taking place and why, you'll want to give them some space and leniency. They should know that they can come to you at any time, but they should also be able to spend some time alone and have a bit of privacy. Of course, their age and personality will affect how much time they want to spend by themselves versus how much time they want to spend with you.

Even though you'll want to give them some chances to find their own way and make their own choices, be careful that you don't offer them too much leniency. They need the reinforcement of discipline in order to feel that their lives have settled down and are secure. As a grandparent, you might have been more of a friend and less of a disciplinarian to your grandchildren. When you have to parent them, that relationship will change to a degree. It may seem hard to do, but it's worthwhile in order to help your grandchildren succeed in life.

Fortunately, you won't be the only grandparents who are parenting your grandkids. Because of that, you'll have help and support from others in your same position. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is a state-by-state resource list that can help grandparents in this situation. When you're able to talk with others who are going through the same thing, it not only helps remind you that you're not alone, but it helps you make friends and find more resources to use in your quest to be the best parents you can be to your grandchildren.

Lastly, one of the best things you can do for your grandchildren is remind them that they have you to lean on. Even though your relationship dynamics will change when you parent them, that relationship should only get stronger. As you and your grandchildren learn to lean on each other through difficult times, all of you will benefit from your changed relationship. The day will come when you don't have to parent your grandchildren anymore, and you'll feel satisfied knowing that you've done the best job possible to give them a good start in their adult lives.

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