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Grandparents As Primary Caregivers: Paradise Lost

Apr 25, 2008
The true definition of a grandparent is the parent of a child's parent. In today's society, more and more grandparents are stepping in as parents because their son or daughter is unwilling or unable to give their child proper care. While this situation may be better off for the well being of the child, both the grandparent and the child lose something in the process.

Children can learn quite a lot from their grandparent if both parties are in their traditional roles. They can spend quality time together and form a deep and lasting bond because the grandparent is able to treat the grandchild as an equal. But this equation changes as the grandparent becomes the parent. He is now the authority figure in the child' s life and may even had to come out of retirement to provide for the child. As for spending quality time with the child, there is a good reason that as human beings we have our children when we are younger. The grandparent may not have the stamina to work and spend time with the child. The chance to form that special bond between the grandparent and the grand child has disappeared.

Psychologically speaking, returning to being a parent figure after so many years can also put extra stress on the grandparent. These older people do not have the patience or the tolerance to raise another child, and may be dealing with feelings of guilt because of the anger that they feel towards their own child for placing them in this position. The child may also be dealing with feelings of abandonment, which the grandparent is trying to cope with also. Basically, it is an emotional time bomb that could explode at any moment and the grandparent may not have the strength to defuse the situation. All these volatile feelings can also block the way to the grandparent and grandchild having a normal relationship.

If as a grandparent you find yourself in the position as parent to your grandchild, there are several things that you can do to make the situation as easy as possible. First, you should take care of your health. You have someone else depending on you now and you can't afford to end up sick or in the hospital.

You may also want to take some parenting courses at a local school or online. It may have been quite a few years since you were a parent and the issues faced by today's youth may have you at a loss. You can also check for support groups for grandparents in the role of parents. These other older adults may give you some insight into the child's feelings and reactions.

You may also want to consider counseling for both you and your grandchild. You are both dealing with a lot of strong emotions, you towards your child and your grandchild towards his parent. By going through therapy together, you may find that it will create a bond between you and your grandchild. It may also make him feel better to know that you are just as confused as he is.

Finally, you should see an attorney to discover how you can obtain any legal documentation that your grandchild may need as well as starting permanent custody arrangements.

Transforming from a grandparent to a parent is not an easy situation for any of the parties concerned. You should keep talking to your grandchild and show him that you love and support him while both of you are making the transition. After all, the two of you are in it together and you may be surprised to discover that you both make a pretty good team.
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