Grand Families LogoThis article was written by Cookie Oakley, LCSW. She is a family counselor and one of the co-founders of Grand Families. 

As we all know the number of grandparents raising grandchildren is at all-time high.  The primary reason is the epidemic of substance abuse of parents of these children.  All over the country State Child Protective Services and Juvenile Courts are overwhelmed with the large number of these cases.  In this blog I will address the primary struggles that grandparents face with this new and very challenging family dynamic.

As a family counselor, grandparents state the primary struggle is dealing with the adult parents of their grandchildren.  The struggle with establishing and keeping healthy boundaries with the biological parents is almost impossible. Grandparents love their adult child very much, and do not want to alienate them so they fall prey to their manipulation.  The addiction or substance abuse has taken control of their life therefore the reason for losing custody of their children.  When addiction or substance has taken control of anyone, they make poor decisions, and can certainly not make responsible decisions related to being a parent.  Grandparents as parents often are still influenced by their adult child and struggle with telling them no as related to their involvement with seeing their children and/or wanting to participate in the parenting process.  In the February Blog I wrote about healthy boundaries with the parents who are substance abusers.  Please review this article if you are struggling with this issue.

The other primary struggle is getting the grandchildren to respect the grandparents as parents.  Previously they have known their grandparents in the ‘grandparent role’.  The normal grandparent role is spending playful or quality time with grandchildren.  Grandchildren have not viewed grandparents as the disciplinarian.  Therein is a huge problem.  They often do not listen to rules required for parental disciplining.  The grandchildren will often challenge their authority as parents.  This is a tremendous problem because the children are not learning normal childhood discipline and parental guidance.  Family counseling is recommended for grandparents and grandchildren together.  A family counselor can give you a plan of action and coach grandchildren how to change behavior and cooperate with grandparents.

There are many other significant struggles and challenges for grandparents as Pparents.  The everyday emotional struggles caused by the adult child/biological parent’s dysfunctional and often dangerous situation, and the grandchildren’s emotional struggle to understand and cope with their absent parents.  I suggest learning all you can as grandparents/parents how to best manage your situation and family dynamics in order to give your grandchildren an appropriate childhood.  These skills may be best learned in family counseling.  Your community has many resources for this counseling.  Any challenging situation can be best managed with the best possible tools, and learning the correct emotional, parenting, and family management approach reduces significant stress and allows families to enjoy life and reduce the emotional stress.  ­­­­­­