Census records from 2010 posted by the AARP show that 4.9 million children in the United States live in households headed by grandparents. (1) This living arrangement can occur as a result of drug use or abuse on the part of the parent/parents, neglect, illness, death or incarceration.
Because of these circumstances, children and grandparents are often thrust into not only adjusting to each other and learning to cope with the extra responsibility and cost, but also into dealing with all the emotional and legal ramifications that come with the family restructuring.
Emotional Challenges of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
There are emotional challenges on both the side of the grandchildren and the grandparents.
For grandparents, there are positive emotions, “like the love you feel for your grandchildren, the joy in seeing them learn and grow, and the relief at giving them a stable environment ...” (3)
There are also not-so-positive emotions, such as:
• Resentment towards the parent(s) for leaving you with the responsibility of caring for their child or of other grandparents who get to enjoy their retirement.
• Guilt and feeling “responsible for your child’s failure as a parent, second-guessing and regretting your own mistakes when you were first parenting.” (3)
• Grief over the loss of your child or your child’s behavior that has brought this situation into place, and the loss of your independence.
Grandchildren are also feeling these emotions, but often don’t have the benefit of life experience and wisdom to help them figure everything out. So grandparents are really dealing with both their own emotions and helping their grandchildren deal with theirs.
Legal Challenges of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Emotions are somewhat logical and expected when it comes to such a change in the family dynamics. What grandparents may not expect are the legal challenges of becoming the primary caregiver.