The Second-Round Parent
Tips for Raising Your Grandchildren
By Lauren Teegarden
An increasing number of children are being raised - in whole or part - by their grandparents. More than 4.5 million children are living in households headed by their grandparents, and not always for happy reasons. Being a parent for a second time can be a challenge, but it can also be tremendously rewarding. Overcome frustration or dejection by focusing on the blessings that your grandchildren bring to life.
Don't take complete responsibility for the way that your children "turned out" or the mistakes that they have made. Children from stable families can lead troubled lives, and children from disrupted families can be completely well-adjusted. The lesson to learn from this is that ultimately, children make their own decisions. Put the past behind you, and focus on helping your grandchildren develop into mature, loving, and competent young people.
Here are some tips for a smooth transition.
Address hurt, anger, bitterness, and disappointment. It's likely that your grandchildren are frustrated with their parents. Allow them to express their fears and frustrations, but never demonize their parents; instead, share positive memories and thoughts with the children. Everyone makes mistakes, and the children should still love their parents.
Don't be concerned about the large age difference. Even if there are fifty or sixty years between grandparent and grandchild, don't worry: children need verbal and physical attention, and a person of any age can provide this. Perhaps you aren't as vigorous as when you were a first-time parent, but this will not be as problematic as imagined.
Assert gentle authority. You don't need to be a buddy to "win over" your grandchildren. When raising grandchildren, it's important to be seen more as a parental figure than as a confidante: children desire a stabilizing, ordered influence on their lives.
Utilize community support--don't be afraid to ask for assistance when necessary. Call upon church groups, friends, or family when you need a break from childcare or are uncertain about a course of action. Make sure to take care of yourself; you must be healthy and rested to provide the best care to your grandchildren.
Raising grandchildren is a challenge: but with consideration, effort, and love, the experience will be just as (if not more) rewarding than being a parent the first time.
Lauren Teegarden, a high school senior, lives in Portland, Oregon. With grandparents of her own, Lauren recognized the value of strong grandparent-grandchild interactions and started "The Grandparent Connection," a free monthly email newsletter with articles, advice, and activities for grandparents. Visit her website, www.thegrandparentconnection.org, to sign up for the newsletter.