For older adults tasked with caring for young children, there's a lot to manage. Seniorly shares our top tips for surviving - and thriving - as a grandparent raising grandchildren.
Those later years in life are supposed to bring retirement, ease, and freedom. However for a growing number of seniors, those golden years are being spent doing something with a little less freedom – raising grandchildren.
There are instances in which adult children need to move back in with parents for financial or other reasons, and, often, they bring their own children with them. In other instances, adult children are no longer able to care for children of their own, and the grandparents step in as the primary caregivers.
With the rise in single parenting, many grandparents are also being asked to help with after-school and summer care while working parents are unavailable.
Regardless of the exact living arrangements or how they came to be, it is quite the life change when seniors are once again thrust into parenting. There are some things that can be done to increase the chances of the arrangement being successful for everyone.
It’s ok to feel overwhelmed, even if caring for a child is a routine you’ve been following for several years.
Talking about it openly with someone will be healthier for you – and for your grandchildren – than keeping those feelings of unhappiness and resentment brewing inside.
Depending upon the situation that brought the children to you, they may be going through their own emotional upheaval. Encourage them to share their own feelings.
Small children might do this best through storytelling or art. Older children might respond well to being able to journal or talk with a trusted friend. Reassure them, regardless of their ages, that they are loved and safe.
Like it or not, this stage of your life typically requires more rest and care. The strain of caring for small children can take an additional toll on your body. Even if you feel like you’re pulled in too many directions to take the time you might need to rest, you have to make that time for yourself.
If you aren’t physically up to the challenge, you won’t be able to care for yourself or your grandchildren in a way that's beneficial for all of you. Remember to make and take the time you need to take care of yourself.
By doing these things, you are also teaching them positive messages about healthy lifestyles.
We’ve all heard that "it takes a village to raise a child." You’ll do better with this endeavor if you have a strong support team.
What your support team looks like will be determined by what you need most. Do you do really well with the kids but not so well with taking care of yourself? Your support team might be a group of friends who go play golf or get pedicures with you once a week while a sitter stays with the kids.
Do you do a good job of expressing yourself emotionally, but get run down with the small children? Your support team might be a few friends who come over and play with the kids while you take a nap. Or it might be the teenage grandchild of a friend who takes the kids to the park to play while you rest.
Support teams look different to everyone because everyone’s needs are different. As the children grow, your support team may change.
The important thing to remember in all of this is that you have the opportunity to change the lives of your grandchildren and to give them a childhood that maybe wasn’t originally scripted for them. This is their second chance. Maybe it’s your second chance as well. Enjoy it. And enjoy them.
Emma Rodbro is Seniorly’s Head of Product Experience & Operations. Emma’s passion for reducing social isolation in aging populations was undoubtedly influenced by her own experience as a teenager and spending time with her grandfather. Emma went on to earn her Bachelor or Arts in Public Health and Sociology from Brown University and holds a Master’s of Social Work from the University of California, Berkeley. When she’s not at work, Emma is a volunteer at DOROT, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the challenges of an aging population.
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