Parenting as Grandparents

When I started this blog, I envisioned it as an informational, and sometimes entertaining, resource for young parents. What I didn’t think about was grandparents filling the job of parents.

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Grandparents serving as parents “is one of the fastest growing demographics in the world,” says Judy Kreag, a Licensed Parent Educator in Duluth, Minn. Kreag developed a course known as parenting again.

The current opioid crisis has sparked the rise in grandparents taking responsibility for grandchildren, though there are other situations, as well. In particula, Kreag has found that families touched by drug abuse have some special needs.

Often, the adult children have had their children taken away from them and the grandparents find themselves spending their money put aside for retirement on legal fees to get custody of their grandchildren.

“Courts are set up to try to get children back with their parents. They are not set up to give the children to the grandparents,” said Kreag. She knows of one couple who spend $30,000 to get legal custody of their grandchildren.

In addition, “the children are confused.” She spends a good part of the course

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discussing ways to talk to the grandchildren about why they’re not living with their parents.

Grandparents with adult children struggling with drug or alcohol abuse often feel guilt that their children have turned to drugs. “There’s a lot of shame involved and people don’t always want to air their problems,” says Kreag, who only has 3-5 couples sign up for the course each session, despite offering free dinner and childcare during the classtime.

Kreag says she recommends to her students they go to Nar Anon or Al Anon meetings where the literature discusses that you are not responsible for your adult children’s behavior.

Grandparents who are parenting also sometimes struggle to help with their grandchildren’s schoolwork, especially assignments that involve technology.

And, of course, an issue familiar to parents of every age, exhaustion. It can be very draining to parent at any age, but particularly at retirement age. Kreag says she stresses self-care.

To families who are looking for similar programs in their area, Kreag suggests checking with the public school district, county education programs, and religious organizations, such as churches and synagogues.