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Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

No matter how much you love your grandkids, raising them comes with many challenges as well as rewards. 这些指导方针可以帮助你在第二次育儿时取得成功.

Young child perched on backrest of sofa behind grandpa's head reaches his hands around to cover his grandpa's eyes

The challenges of grandparents raising grandchildren

As grandparents, we usually have the benefit of interacting with our grandkids on a level that is once removed from the day-to-day responsibilities of parents. For many of us, grandparenting means a weekend together every now and then, an afternoon play date, an evening babysitting, a summer vacation, or chats on the phone and email exchanges here and there. But when life circumstances change—through divorce, the death of parents, or changes to a parent’s work or school-related responsibilities, for example—it often falls to grandparents to assume full- or part-time responsibility for their grandchildren.

Also known as “kinship care,” a growing number of grandparents are now taking on the parenting role for their grandchildren, thus foregoing the traditional grandparent/grandchild relationship. This often means giving up your leisure time, the option of traveling, and many other aspects of your independence. Instead, 你又一次承担起了家庭日常维护的责任, schedules, meals, homework, and play dates. And if it was tragic circumstances that required you to step into the role of a parent, you’ll face many other stress factors, such as coping with your own and your grandchildren’s grief.

但是抚养你的孙子孙女,虽然很有挑战性,但也可以非常有回报. Yes, you may have to deal with colicky babies or moody teenagers, 但你也会体验到与你孙子的世界更紧密的联系, including their school and leisure activities. You may also find yourself rolling back the years, rejuvenated by the constant companionship of much younger people. And you can derive immense satisfaction from providing your grandchildren with a safe, nurturing, and structured home environment in which to grow and feel loved.

Exploring your rights as a grandparent

在某些情况下,祖父母有必要寻求法律帮助. If there’s been a divorce, death of one parent, estrangement, or the suspicion that your grandchildren are undergoing neglect or abuse, you may need to consult a lawyer or advocacy group to clarify your legal rights and ensure access to your grandchildren.

Grandparents raising grandchildren tip 1: Acknowledge your feelings

抚养孙子孙女的前景必然会引发一系列的情绪. Positive emotions, like the love you feel for your grandchildren, the joy in seeing them learn and grow, and relief at giving them a stable environment, are easy to acknowledge. 而承认诸如怨恨、内疚或恐惧等情感则比较困难.

It’s important to acknowledge and accept what you’re feeling, both positive and negative. Don’t beat yourself up over your doubts and misgivings. It’s only natural to feel some ambivalence about childrearing at a time when you expected your responsibilities to be dwindling. These feelings don’t mean that you don’t love your grandchildren.

What you may feel

Stress and worry – If you’ve been used to the occasional visit from a grandchild, being back in the saddle full time can feel stressful and overwhelming. You may worry about how you will handle the additional responsibilities and what will happen to the grandkids if something happens to you.

[Read: How to Stop Worrying]

Anger or resentment – You may feel anger or resentment toward the grandchild’s parents for leaving you with the responsibility of caring for their child. Or you might be resentful of other friends who are enjoying the retirement you once envisioned.

Guilt -你可能会对你的孩子作为父母的失败感到内疚和负有责任, 当你第一次为人父母时,对自己犯下的错误进行反思和后悔.

Grief – There are many losses that come with taking in your grandkids, 包括失去独立和更容易扮演“祖父母”的角色,” rather than the primary caregiver. You may also be grieving for your child and the difficulties that have led to this situation.

When you start to feel overwhelmed…

记住,虽然你可能没有年轻时那样的精力, you do have the wisdom that only comes with experience—an advantage that can make a huge difference in your grandchild’s life. 不像第一次做父母的人,你以前做过这些,并从错误中吸取教训. Don’t underestimate what you have to offer!

Tip 2: Take care of yourself

你可能没想过在人生的这个阶段还要抚养孩子. 有时,身体上、情感上和经济上的需求可能会让人难以承受. That’s why it’s vitally important that you take care of yourself and get the support you need.

When you’re preoccupied with the daily demands of raising grandkids, it’s easy to let your own needs fall by the wayside. But taking care of yourself is a necessity, not a luxury. You can’t be a good caretaker when you’re overwhelmed, exhausted, and emotionally depleted. 为了跟上你的孙辈,你需要冷静,集中注意力. 照顾好自己的身心健康是你达到目标的途径.

[Read: Aging Well]

A healthy you means healthy grandchildren. If you don’t take care of your health, you won’t be able to take care of your grandchildren, either. Make it a priority to eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and get adequate sleep. Don’t let doctor’s appointments or medication refills slide.

Hobbies and relaxation are not luxuries. 腾出时间休息和放松是避免倦怠和抑郁的必要条件. Use your “me time” to really nurture yourself. 与其在电视机前开小差(这不会让你恢复精力),不如选择 activities that trigger the relaxation response, such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation.

It’s okay to lean on your grandkids for help. Kids are smarter and more capable than we often give them credit for. 即使是年幼的孩子也能自己收拾东西,帮忙做家务. Helping out will also make your grandkids feel good.

Support makes all the difference

Studies show that grandparents who cope well with the added stress of raising grandchildren are those who seek out others for support.

Find someone you can talk to about what you’re going through. This will give you a chance to work through your feelings and reach an acceptance of the situation. If you deny or ignore these feelings, they will come out in other ways and may affect your relationship with your grandkids.

Look for support groups for grandparents raising grandchildren. 在这段旅程中,支持小组甚至电话支持都很有帮助, and it’s a good start for making friends in similar situations. Hearing from people who have been there can help both uplift your spirits and give you concrete suggestions for your situation.

Reach out in your community for childcare help. If you are a member of a church, synagogue or other religious organization, you may be able to ask around for available babysitters. Try asking at a library storytime, chatting up other parents at the playground, 看看有没有邻居有个可靠的孩子可以照看孩子, or if other parents are interested in a babysitting swap.

Connect with parents with children. Even if you feel like you are from a different generation, 养育孩子的欢乐与艰辛很快就能形成共同的纽带. It may take time, but forging friendships with parents of similar aged children can offer camaraderie and help on navigating the maze of issues facing children today.

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Tip 3: Realize your grandkids will have mixed feelings too

Moving to a new home is never easy, even in the best of circumstances. When children are dealing with the loss of regular contact with their parent or parents, the move is even harder. It will take some time for your grandchildren to adjust, and in the meantime, they may act especially contrary and difficult. And if the children have suffered from emotional neglect, trauma这些伤口不会因为它们现在在一个安全的地方就消失. They will need time to heal.

你的孙辈可能会怨恨与父母分开,希望回去, even if their home situation was dangerous or abusive. Don’t take this personally. The parent-child bond is powerful. 即使孩子们已经长大了,知道和你在一起会更好, 他们仍然会想念父母,还会有被遗弃的感觉.

你的孙辈的感受可能会通过很多方式表现出来,包括行为. They may lash out with aggressive or inappropriate behavior, or they may withdraw and push you away.

无论他们的行为如何,你的孙辈都需要你的安慰和支持. If you start to get angry or upset, put yourself in their head. Picture what they’ve been through, and the confusion, mistrust, and fear they’re probably feeling.

Remember that children often act out in a safe place. 有时候你会觉得你的孙辈不喜欢或不欣赏你, 他们的行为实际上意味着他们有足够的安全感来表达恐惧的情绪.

When grandkids first arrive, they may be on their best behavior. 如果在短暂的“蜜月”阶段后,他们开始行动,不要太气馁. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing a bad job. As mentioned previously, 这可能是一个信号,表明他们终于有足够的安全感来发泄自己的真实感受.

Tip 4: Focus on creating a stable environment

而你的孙子需要时间来适应他们新的生活安排, there are steps you can take to make the transition easier. Above all, your grandchildren need to feel secure. Children thrive in an environment that is stable and predictable.

Establish a routine. Routines and schedules help make a child’s world feel safe. Set a schedule for mealtimes and bedtimes. Create special rituals that you and your grandchildren can share on weekends or when getting ready for bed.

Encourage their input in their new home. Let your grandkids help pack and move in their belongings to the extent that they’re able for their age. 鼓励他们装饰他们的新房间,按他们喜欢的方式布置. Having some control will make the adjustment easier.

Set clear, age-appropriate house rules and enforce them consistently. Children feel more secure when they know what to expect. Loving boundaries tell the child that he or she is safe and protected.

Make sure that each grandchild has a private space. If grandchildren are sharing a bedroom, 发挥创意:用隔板把大房间里的私人空间隔开, erect a playhouse in the backyard, or set up a tent in the family room.

Offer your time and attention. You can be a consistent, reassuring presence for your grandkids. Try to make time to interact with them at the beginning of the day, when they come home from school, and before bed.

Tip 5: Encourage open and honest communication

Communicating openly and honestly with your grandchildren is one of the best things you can do to help them cope with their new situation. 花时间倾听你的孙子孙女的心声尤为重要. In this difficult time, they need an adult they can go to with their questions, concerns, and feelings.

[Read: Effective Communication]

Plan regular times when you sit and talk to each other, free from TV, phones, games, and other distractions.

鼓励你的孙辈谈论他们的感受,无论是好的还是坏的. Try to listen without judging or dismissing their feelings.

Help your grandkids learn to identify their emotions. 例如,如果你的孙子看起来很难过,你可以说,“你看起来很伤心. Is something bothering you?”

Young children communicate through play. Young children may not be able to verbalize how they feel, but will express themselves through their play.

It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” You don’t have to have an answer for everything. 举个例子,如果你不知道妈妈什么时候回家,那就实话实说. Don’t evade the question or lie.

How much should you tell young grandchildren?

When deciding what to tell your grandchildren about the situation, it’s important to consider their age and developmental skills. The following tips may help:

  • Avoid telling the child too much. Many children are simply too young to understand the whole story. 当祖父母告诉一个年幼的孩子所有的细节情况, they may create more harm than good. 太多的信息会让孩子感到困惑、恐惧和不知所措.
  • Avoid telling the child too little or nothing at all. Kids are smart. They will pick up tidbits about their situation, even if the details are not discussed directly. If children learn about what’s going on from someone else, they could feel hurt, deceived, and confused. They may avoid asking you questions or talking to you about other important concerns because they think certain topics are “off limits.”
  • Never twist the facts or lie to the child. 即使很小的孩子也知道真相和谎言之间的区别. 他们经常把信息拼凑起来,但却害怕说出真相. Some people may twist the facts in an effort to protect the child. But that approach often backfires. When children are told untruths about a situation, they may become very confused, angry, and hurt. The best strategy is to be honest with your grandchildren, at their level of understanding. 你的孙辈将学会信任和诚实在人际关系中的重要性.

Source: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, University of Wisconsin-Extension

Tip 6: Encourage contact with parents

孩子们不可能总是与父母保持联系, and at times, it may not be in a child’s best interest. But in general, 对你的孙子孙女来说,与父母保持关系是健康的, especially if they may live with them again. If meeting in person isn’t possible, you can encourage contact in other ways, including phone calls, video chats, cards and letters, and email.

Making visits with parents as smooth as possible

Don’t put your grandchild in the middle. Try to set aside any feelings of anger or disappointment you have toward your grandchild’s parent. Avoid venting issues or saying critical things about the parent in front of your grandchild. 不要让你的孙子因为和父母在一起而感到内疚. This can be confusing and distressing for the child.

Communicate and cooperate with your grandchild’s parent. Do what you can to smooth the relationship and make the parent feel a part of the child’s life. Share information about the child’s school, hobbies, and friends. Make sure the parent has the child’s schedule and contact information.

Make visits part of your grandchild’s routine. 如果孩子知道将要发生什么,与父母接触的压力就会小一些. 如果可能的话,提前做好拜访的计划,并把他们安排在一个正常的日程安排上. Talk with the parent ahead of time, so everyone’s expectations for the visit are clear. It’s best if both parents and grandparents enforce the same rules.

Be sensitive to your grandchild’s feelings. It’s important to talk with your grandchild about how they feel about parental contact. Even when kids are looking forward to a visit or call, it can bring up many feelings, including uncertainty and nervousness. Kids may worry that their parent doesn’t love them anymore, or that they won’t have anything to talk about. Be there to reassure them.

Help your grandchild deal with disappointment. Sometimes, visits don’t go well or the parent doesn’t show up. Vent to a friend if you need to, but avoid the temptation to say angry or hurtful things about the parent in front of your grandchild, as this won’t make him or her feel better. 相反,你应该和你的孙子谈谈发生了什么以及他们的感受.

Last updated: November 2020

Get more help

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren – If you are just starting to care for your grandchild, this guide will help you find your way. Covers legal issues, family challenges, and how to find support. (AARP)

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Series – Articles covering topics such as reasons for your grandchild’s misbehavior and ways to build strong families. (University of Florida IFAS Extension)

Finding support

In the U.S.: State Fact Sheets -在你所在的州寻找祖父母抚养孙子孙女的资源. (AARP)

In the UK: Advice for kinship carers -为在英国抚养孙子孙女的祖父母提供建议、支持和热线服务. (Grandparents Plus)

In Australia: Grandparents – Links – Regional and national support resources for grandparents in Australia, including a helpline. (Family Court of Australia)