Grandparents raising grandchildren: Part two

Moving from living with parents to living with grandparents can be a challenging time.

Families come in all shapes and sizes and this includes grandparents raising their grandchildren. No matter what the reason for having your grandchildren come live with you, moving can be stressful for everyone. Michigan State University Extension suggests some things you can do, combined with some attention and time, to help make the transition easier for them and for you.

Keep in mind they are not just moving in with you, they are also being separated from their parents. According to HelpGuide, considering the strength of the bond between parent and child, it is normal for them to miss their parents and they may be dealing with feelings of abandonment.

Encourage them to talk about their feelings. Listen with an open heart. Books can help kids recognize and name emotions. Reading books to children is one way to strengthen the bond between you and your grandchildren, giving them a sense of security and feeling of love. You could start with either or both of these books:

  • “Robert Lives with His Grandparents,” by Martha Whitmore Hickman (K–grade 4): Robert’s parents are divorced, and he lives with his grandparents. When his grandmother decides to attend Parents Day at school, Robert is afraid of what the other kids will think of him.
  • “Boomer’s Big Day,” by Constance W. McGeorge (Ages 2 +): Boomer, the dog, finds it hard to process the changes of moving.

The University of Georgia suggests the following tips to help children adjust to moving in with grandparents:

  • Plan activities – spend the time to give attention without outside distractions of everyday life. This gives you time to talk, explore feelings and just have fun together. 
  • Involve your grandchildren in the move – let them help pack and unpack, decorate their room, hang posters or pictures that are special to them.
  • Routines and schedules are critical – the more predictable their days and nights are the more secure they will feel. Have meals together, read books at bedtime and establish simple routines for getting ready in the morning.
  • Get them involved – kids need friends and activities. Help them connect with neighborhood children and school friends. Get them involved in age appropriate community groups. MSU Extension 4H Youth Groups have many options for children ages 5-19. For younger children, check out your area’s Great Start Collaborative for local playgroups or resources.  
  • Set and enforce rules – children feel more secure when they know what is and is not expected from them, and they need to know what consequences to expect when they choose not to follow the rules. Fewer rules are easier to remember and enforce. Talk about the rules and consequences and get their input.
  • Chores are important – helping around the house can help give your grandchildren a sense of belonging, a chance to feel useful and a valuable member of the household. Very small children can help put toys away, set the table and put their laundry away. Older children can help vacuum, do the dishes and take out the garbage. Teens can help with laundry, cooking and running errands.
  • A space of their own – everyone has a need for some personal space and privacy. Find some way to give your grandchildren their own space in your home. Be creative and use dividers if they have to share their room or give them alone time in certain areas of the house each day.

Even though this may be a stressful time, you can feel good about doing your best to provide a stable, loving environment for your grandchildren. By following some of these steps you can nurture your grandchildren through the transition of moving and in the process take joy in the fact that you get to see them grow and develop on a daily basis. 

This is the second in a series of articles on grandparents raising grandchildren. Coming soon, Part three: Overview of child development.

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