Raising grandchildren can be an emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting task. The good news is that you don’t have to handle it alone — there are a number of resources available to provide support and guidance throughout your time as a second-round parent.
If you’re faced with the monumental decision to care for your grandchildren, it’s important to review these resources ahead of time and consider your options. If you’re already raising the grandkids, the tips and tools outlined below can be just as helpful.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind:
Know your rights
Pat Owens, founder of Grandfamilies of America, discovered her grandson on her doorstep when his mother took off for a full year. When she returned and asked to take her son back, Pat refused, believing she had the legal right to do so. She was mistaken. After police showed up at her house to return the child to his mother, Pat engaged in a messy custody battle to make sure her grandson had the stability and care he deserved.
Pat’s experience demonstrates the importance of understanding the legal implications of caretaking for your grandchild before you find yourself in a similar situation. She founded Grandfamilies of America to help other grandparents navigate the legal maze of caregiving and guardianship. The website includes legal definitions and policies related to kinship care as well as links to organizations offering advice and support.
The American Bar Association sponsors the Consumers’ Guide to Legal Help, which outlines legal resources and low-cost services for those in need of representation or advice. Legal services are not provided directly by the ABA but the website is easy to navigate and will be helpful in finding an organization that can assist.
Seek financial assistance
Your retirement planning probably does not take the expenses related to parenting into consideration, which means your budget could be stretched to a breaking point. Making yourself aware of the financial resources available to you and your grandchildren will help to alleviate this strain and provide you with a renewed sense of security.
The Administration for Children and Families Office of Family Assistance provides Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to help you stay above water while you reevaluate and reorganize your financial situation. The listing offers key contact information at the state government level, allowing you to access information and get the process moving as quickly as possible.
The National Council on the Aging sponsors a Benefits Check Up for people 55 and over to find help with rent, property taxes, heating bills, meals and more. The premise of this website is to help you find assistance that you may not realize exists. Their homepage states with pride that the organization has helped more than 3.5 million people find almost $13 billion in benefits, which makes this a worthwhile resource to consider.
Focus on connections
Your grandchildren will inevitably struggle with feelings of attachment to — and resentment toward — their parents who are unable to provide care for them. You’re already aware that you cannot replace the relationship they had, but it’s important to help the children create healthy connections that help them grow and heal.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a nationwide organization with a focus on providing mentorship and positive role models for children. The big brother or sister assigned to your grandchildren will provide guidance and encouragement to help them get good grades, avoid risky behaviors and gain a sense of self-confidence. The program researchers report that children involved in the BBBS program are 46 percent less likely to start using illegal drugs and 52 percent less likely to skip school.
Planet Fassa is an online resource to help you establish a strong bond with your grandchildren through games, stories and physical activity. The website provides a rewards and points system to help your grandchild feel a sense of accomplishment through the completion of fun activities, and their family-focused blog will provide further inspiration. Though the resource is found online, Planet Fassa aims to be a springboard for physical and outdoor activity.
When raising your grandchildren you may find it difficult to get a sense of their emotions and struggles. An extension of Colorado State University’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies runs a series of online workshops that train grandparents to read signals associated with emotional child-parent attachment issues to reduce the stress of caregiving and raise children who feel secure and healthy.
Feeling overwhelmed by all the information available? Start with the basics. These resources will give you a solid foundation of knowledge and support to help you handle the challenges moving forward:
Grandfamilies.org provides information on legal rights for grandfamilies, financial assistance programs, personal stories and support
Administration for Needy Families offers programs managing adoption, financial assistance, childcare and more
GrandFacts by the AARP published a state-based listing of grandfamily statistics, support groups and other assistance programs
Grandparents.com is an online support community for grandparents including advice, forums and blogs
Are you raising your grandchildren, or trying to navigate the sea of information available? What helpful resources have you discovered?