Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

In today's supercharged society, you never know from one day to the next what your life position will be. Things change quickly, even now that you are a senior and are used to a slower paced life. It is not unusual for grandparents to raise their grandchildren. The number doing so has almost doubled since 1970, according to the Ohio State University Extension. It affects all ethnic groups and income levels across the nation. This article focuses on grandparents raising grandchildren, some statistics, and where help and support can be found.

The Facts

Because the census is taken only once every 10 years, the data is a bit skewed. Still, we can see that the increase of grandparents raising grandkids is rising. In 1970, 2.2 million or 3.2 percent of American children lived in a household maintained by a grandparent. In 1997, this figure rose to 3.9 million or 5.5 percent, representing a 76 percent increase over the 27 year period. This increase is not defined by whether or not the parents of the grandchildren were present in the home. Currently, 1.4 million children, or almost 1 in 20, live in a household headed by their grandparents with no parent present.

The Challenges

Because most seniors were raised so much differently than children today are, the prospect of having to raise your grandkids brings a lot of challenge. These challenges are:

  • Feelings of shock and sadness - your life is disrupted
  • Less energy than the youngsters
  • Financial obligation - the necessity of living on a fixed income
  • Behavior problems - not knowing how to address them
  • Legal help - may be necessary if there is evidence of abuse
  • Parent involvement - how to control or limit if necessary

You must ask yourself if this situation is going to be a good one for you. There will of course be issues, but the consequences may be such that you will end up seeing your grandkids in a foster home. No grandparent wishes that.

What The Child Brings To The Home

Our children truly are a blessing - ones to be nurtured and cared for, educated and kept from harms way. Children also have a lot to give to an empty nest, where life may seem boring and fruitless. Let's look at what the child has to offer:

  • Energy - the boundless energy of a child is heart warming
  • Optimism - children haven't had the chance to get cynical
  • Laughter - a home without laughter is just a house
  • Activity - they help keep you young by being active
  • Love - nothing is better than the love of a young child
  • Youthfulness - this is a panacea to older people
  • Satisfaction - knowing you are doing the right thing

What Grandparents Have To Offer

This relationship is not one-sided. The grandparent also has a role in the children's lives. This provides a good mix for a happy home. Here is what grandparents can bring to the child:

  • Maturity - an authority figure and one wise in their ways
  • Wisdom - the wisdom of a well lived life
  • Stability - a safe, secure home for the children
  • Social stability, which young children often need
  • A well regimented home with both grandparents usually
  • present.

As you can see, this is a good arrangement for both grandchild and grandparent. It this an easy situation? No, it often is not. Butlook on the bright side: Grandparents tend to love their grandchildren at times more than they did their own children. Their working lives are beyond them, and they have more time to devote raising a child.

Support Is Always Available

There are many different support groups for grandparents having grandchildren to raise. Having been raised in a home where "spare the rod and spoil the child" was the general rule, grandparents often have a hard time dealing with this situation. A list of support groups is listed here:

  • Support groups - in the community and on the web
  • Websites - there are hundreds of grandparent support groups
  • available. One of the most popular is
  • Social services - every community has a service that will
  • help with everything from funds to mental health support
  • Legal services - these are often needed if there is a
  • question of custody or abuse is present
  • Relatives - they can often help in any situation that is
  • too overwhelming for the grandparent
  • Government programs - many are available for grandparents,
  • both as volunteer and mental health organizations

Being a grandparent raising a child does not need to be overwhelming. Use the resources available, and make the experience a pleasant one for both you and your grandchild.

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Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.