More than ever before, grandparents – and other relatives – find themselves stepping into a more significant role in raising children. The Texas Kincare Taskforce estimates that more than 600,000 children in Texas are raised by relatives who are not their parents.
Rising to the challenges of raising these children is not an easy task. The increased amount of responsibility and time spent with your grandchildren can bring immense joy and feelings of accomplishment. However, you might find yourself experiencing complex emotional issues, too.
Three of the most common emotional issues grandparents face are grief, guilt, and anger.
Understanding you are not alone, and untangling these unpleasant feelings, is crucial because what helps you will help your grandchild too.
So let’s dive a little deeper into the three most common emotional issues:
Grief is often experienced after a loss, whether it is the result of a choice or by circumstances. The grief is a loss of something that we no longer have. The expression of grief varies and is unique to each person. It can affect your thoughts and feelings, your physical body, behavior, and even evoke spiritual responses.
You might have experienced a loss of:
- Relationships with friends – Including the loss of enjoying the activities you had hoped for in retirement because of the new parental demands you have now.
- Financial security – With unexpected expenses for the child such as medical, legal, and childcare.
- Romantic relationship – With increased tension created by the new dynamics and challenges that raising a child bring.
Anger is not always negative. It can be a natural emotional response to a perceived threat. This is tied to our instinct for survival to “fight, flight, or freeze” and can keep us from harm.
It causes physical changes, such as increased adrenaline, blood pressure, and heart rate. How anger is managed in a healthy way is the key to utilizing this emotion to create something positive in your life.
All family members in this situation may feel anger that needs to be addressed:
- Caregivers might feel anger toward the parent for neglecting their parental role and placing this unexpected responsibility on the caregiver.
- The child might feel like they’ve been abandoned and don’t have a “normal” childhood.
Guilt is a sense of regret related to something you have, or haven’t, done. When it comes to grandparents raising grandchildren, some might feel misplaced guilt, such as feeling like they weren’t a good parent themselves. Remember that it isn’t something you can control. You may have done everything you could.
Guilty feelings could include:
- The real, or perceived, conclusion that you are to blame for the way your child is unable to successfully parent.
- Not being able to devote as much time to the grandchildren you aren’t raising.
- The anger you may have about your circumstances.
The misplaced guilt and misconception should be questioned to determine if you are coming to a logical conclusion concerning the guilt. If indeed the guilt is founded, it is helpful to work through the emotion and forgive yourself. Making plans to not commit/omit the offense in the future can be helpful in resolving and alleviating the adverse emotion.
It takes a whole village to raise a child.
It has been said that one of the joys of being a grandparent is that at the end of the day you can give the grandchild back to their parents. But when you are raising your grandchild, you don’t get that luxury. It is easy to feel alone and the captain of a Team of One.
So it is important to remember that you aren’t alone in this. You have a whole village ready to help your family. There are so many resources out there for caregivers. In fact, on July 7, 2018 the 115th U.S. Congress passed the “Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act.” This established an Advisory Council that researches and reports to the public various resources that are needed to help grandparents and other older relatives.
JFS will be addressing these resources in a FREE online talk called Kinship Care 101: A Discussion for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. The event is from 10-11:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 10. Professionals will be on hand to talk and answer questions about:
- Tax and health care benefits
- Mental health
- Support groups
- Legal documents
- Other resources
If you, or someone you know, is a caregiver of a child please have them register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kinship-care-101-tickets-116016174501