Kids who cannot be in the care of their parents, may have alternate care arrangements through extended kin. The most common of those extended kin arrangements are with grandparents.
There has likely been a multitude of challenging experiences faced by the children, their parents, and the grandparents. Consequently, these are not usually situations that come about quickly or without significant issues.
Moreover, relationships between grandparents and the parents may be challenging. Depending on their age, the grandparents may have their own physical issues let alone any mental health issues too.
In short, kids in the care of grandparents creates a complex web of concerns for all to face. Even if this outcome is best for the kids.
If you are a grandparent caring for grandchildren, consider the following 5 tips:
There is a good likelihood that the kids have been traumatized. Trauma (parental separation, disrupted relationships, relocation, exposure to parental issues, abuse and/or neglect, loss due to death) carries emotional consequences. Depending on the age and disposition of the child, these may come out in behavior. Do consider counseling for yourself first. Learn to anticipate and address issues that may or have emerged from the child. The child may likewise need counseling themselves.
2. Relationship with Parents
Do what you can to maintain a good working relationship with the parents. Wherever possible, keep them up to date on their children’s wellbeing. Further, arrange a visit between parents and children. Assuming the children can see their parents, this can reduce the children missing or worrying about them. It will help the children adjust emotionally. Conflict can be avoided depending on the degree to which you can maintain a positive working relationship with the parents.
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3. Relationship with School
Develop and maintain a relationship with the children’s school and any other service providers. Become aware of how the children are managing in other situations. It can help determine their needs and what additional supports may be necessary.
4. Relationship with the Community
If possible, help the children integrate into their community. We all need friends and activities. Hopefully the kids can continue in extracurricular activities and/or develop friendships for fun and socialization.
5. Take Care of Yourself
Lastly, take care of yourself. Parenting can be exhausting. Get rest and hopefully have strategies in place for you to get a break. Ask for and seek help as necessary.
On behalf of the kids, thanks for stepping up and stepping in. Hopefully these tips may be of service to all.
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW is a Canadian Social Worker in private practice. He is recognized from his 65 episodes of the hit show Newlywed/Nearly Dead, to over 650 columns as the parenting expert of a major metropolitan newspaper, to more than 350 media appearances, to his book, Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout Canada and the US and helps family peacemakers grow their practice.