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The Joys (and Challenges) of Grandparenting – Part 2
You may recall I ended my column last month by focusing on one of the biggest and growing challenges of our day: grandparents raising grandchildren.
It remains a fact that the numbers of parenting grandparents keeps growing and in many cases, raising these grandchildren is taking a toll physically, emotionally and financially.
We know that seniors already face major concerns for their own future economic well-being such as dwindling investment income and potential social security cutbacks. Add to those concerns the prospect of having the responsibility to raise a grandchild (or grandchildren), and the burden can become overwhelming.
Last month, I said that many people reading this column either know someone – a friend or family member – or are themselves raising a grandchild. As a result, some readers already know the struggles and heartache that come with the territory. I have some good friends living the situation and I thought it might be helpful to share their responses to several questions I posed to them. The answers are given anonymously.
The biggest challenges in raising your grandchildren?
“My wife and I took on grandparenting responsibilities in 1995 when our daughter became unable to care for her daughter due to drug use. After many treatment programs, she found a second husband who seemed to be a good match. Unfortunately, our daughter and her new husband were both predisposed to drugs, but two more grandchildren were brought into the world. In 2003, both these children came to live with us when their father dropped them off at our doorstep with their belongings and asked us to care for them. They have been with us ever since.
“Several challenges immediately came to bear. First and foremost is gain legal custody, something that proved to be very expensive and complicated. The next, gain the trust of the children. It requires time and much love.”
What have been some of the blessings?
“Knowing that you are making a difference in the lives of your grandchildren is a major blessing. Seeing them improve and grow is a blessing unto itself, even though there are times when your anger at what their parents did to them rages within you.”
If you were giving counsel to a couple facing the prospect of raising a grandchildren, what would you say?
“I know many other grandparents are caught with the need to consider raising their grandchildren. Some things to consider involve: obtaining legal custody, having the finances necessary, having a home with adequate space, having the health and energy needed to raise active children, and most importantly having the love, devotion, and desire to raise them. Like raising your own children, having the capacity to raise a second family can be extremely taxing. You will often reflect on how you came to be in this position, but seeing the opportunity you are giving your grandchildren is the greatest joy one can have.”
What are some meaningful ways friends and family can be supportive and encouraging?
“We have been blessed with many community individuals who have acted as mentors and coaches. They often take the children out for events or include them in family activities, which gives them a greater sense of family rather than aging grandparents who are physically and financially strapped.”
I hope this interview with my friends has been informative and instructive. Obviously, with them there has been much pain mixed in with the joy of raising grandchildren. However, let these final words from a friend be a source of encouragement.
“Grandparenting has great rewards as you see your grandchildren grow into adulthood with futures that could have been destroyed under other circumstances.”