In the United States, over 2.7 million grandparents are responsible for the day-to-day care of approximately 7 million grandchildren according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. Grandparents and kin who are raising their grandchildren can face many problems not encountered by younger parents.
Parenting as a grandparent
For some grandparents, caring for their grandchildren means loss of dreams of relaxation and freedom from work. Others may feel isolated from friends who no longer have children at home. They may feel guilt or resentment toward their children. Grandparents raising grandchildren frequently face significant financial burdens — 22 percent of this population live in poverty.
Challenges for children
The children also have to deal with problems. They often have physical or mental problems as a result of parental drug and alcohol abuse. Many have emotional problems as a result of their separation from their parents. Some children’s parents drift in and out of their lives, causing confusion and disruption. Some children get embarrassed when their peers tease them because they are being cared for by older adults. A large number are also behind academically because they’ve missed school. These children may have a hard time concentrating because they constantly worry about their parents. They also worry that they will be abandoned again, this time by their grandparents or kin.
Tips and tools for coping
We can’t eliminate the reality that many grandparents raise their grandchildren, but we can find possible solutions to many of the problems they may encounter. These sites provide information for grandparents and kin who are raising grandchildren.
- Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) — The Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) helps families with children meet their basic needs. Caregivers who are relatives are eligible to receive MFIP child-only payments on behalf of the child.
- Financial capability — Empowers families to make wise decisions about money and other financial resources.
- Coping with abandonment — Children do best when they have a relationship with both parents, but sometimes this is not possible. Here are some tips for talking to your child/grandchild about abandonment.
- Strengthening your support network — Having a strong system of support can help parents and caregivers recover from a family transition and embrace the new reality. Assess your own support system network and get tips for developing new support systems.
- Relative caregiver warmline — Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota — Phone and email service that offers help with raising relatives’ children.
Raising grandchildren is an extraordinary task. You are not alone, and help is available.
Booth, C. (2002). First steps: Getting started raising relatives’ children. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Kinship Caregivers Association.
Ellis, R. R., & Simmons, T. (2014). Coresident grandparents and their grandchildren: 2012 (Report No. P20-576).Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau.
Relative and Third Party Custody and Parenting Time — LawHelpMN.org — Website provides links to resources that will help relatives and other, non-biological parents navigate issues related to custody and parenting time.
Reviewed in 2018