Article written by Gary Direnfeld
September 11 is Grandparents’ Day, a special day to recognize grandparents and celebrate their unconditional love. But not all grandparent relationships are the same. In fact, it is sometimes the case that, rather than the natural parents, grandparents may even act as the primary caregivers in a child’s life.
Grandparents as Primary Caregivers:
Elders may take over the role as primary caregiver due to many life circumstances. For example, one or both parents may be deceased; there may be issues undermining parental capacity to care; or else, work and economic situations may interfere. Whatever the reason, ultimately, responsibility falls to the grandparents.
For some, becoming the primary caregiver is a responsibility sought. They recognize the issues of their children (the parents), and step in to meet the needs of their grandkids. For others, it is a responsibility that befalls out of circumstance.
In the former, it is not uncommon that the children/parents have issues of their own. Therefore, these situations can often be fraught with conflict. In the latter, however, it may not be a matter of choice. Therefore the changing of responsibility may not be met with resistance, but rather gratitude.
The Nature of the Arrangement:
A grandparent’s love is one of a kind. But despite the power of that love, we recognize that it isn’t easy to be an elder taking on the full responsibility of your grandchildren. Given the uncommon nature of these arrangements, the kids in these circumstances have likely endured some degree of distress, perhaps upheaval, maybe even trauma. This may translate into emotional and behavioral issues that require special attention.
On top of the special care required by their grandkids, grandparents may have other personal concerns. For example, depending on the physical and cognitive capacity of their spouse, they might already be acting as a caregiver for someone else. Additionally, grandparents may be taking on this major responsibility alone depending on if they are separated or widowed.
We know grandparents would do anything for their grandchildren. But the least we can do is recognize how much we appreciate their continuing support in our lives.
Celebrating our Grandparents:
Today we recognize the value, worth, contributions and relationships of grandparents.
To those who are managing the care of grandkids, a special recognition to you. If not for you, these kids may lose most, if not all connection with kin. You are the connective tissue maintaining a sense of history and family in the lives of children whose life experience has likely already been a challenge.
Your just being there is a gift that may not be recognized during your time. Indeed, your contribution may not even be appreciated by your own children.
On behalf of the grandkids, thank you.