Over 2.5 million American children are living with grandparents. Being the caregiver for grandchildren can be both challenging and rewarding. Other grandparents living in close proximity to their grandchildren are in weekly contact. Many, even though they live at a distance, find ways to stay closely connected.
However, there are some grandparents who choose not to be involved in the lives of their grandchildren. There are many causes. Family tensions, divorce and remarriages, overwhelming problems of their own, alcoholism, illness and even preoccupation with their own lives can contribute to this sense of emotional detachment.
Whatever the cause, children experience disappointment and a sense of loss when grandparents lose interest.
How can parents help these children?
1. Allow children to share their frustration and sense of loss. Be careful to not minimize or judge their feelings. Sit with them during their times of sadness, validate their feelings but also offer some emotional coaching that allows them to keep this situation in perspective. Remind them of all the people who love and care for them.
2. It is fine to let children know that sometimes we don’t understand the behavior of even family members. Reassure him - without going in to great detail – that while no one can understand his grandparent’s behavior, it has nothing to do with him. For younger children, Max Lucado’s book, Just In Case You Ever Wonder, can help reassure your child of his worth and value.
3. Reassure children that even though the grandparents are absent, they are still members of their family. Teaching our children we can have family conflict but still act in respectful ways is a lesson that will serve them well throughout life.
4. Encourage grandchildren to send pictures or notes to grandparents occasionally to keep them informed. While your child should definitely not feel the need to carry the relationship and needs to have realistic expectations, they can do small things that show consideration and thoughtfulness. This is a balancing act. We want out children to learn altruism but not to be constantly rejected or disappointed by their grandparents.
5. Be realistic about the situation, but keep your own bitterness and resentment under control. Be careful about allowing your own negative emotions to overwhelm your child. Find a trusted friend, counselor or pastor with whom you can process your own sadness. Remember that it is not your job to fix this situation.
6. If there is another set of grandparents who work at staying connected make the most of that relationship. Honest conversations and expressions of gratitude can encourage these grandparents to continue to invest in their grandchildren.
7. Don’t be afraid to find other older adults who can serve as adopted grandparents. My own great-aunt Edna showered my sisters and I with affection and was like another grandmother to us. Invite older neighbors or members from church to visit the child’s school for grandparents’ day or to join your family for important life events or holidays. Everyone will benefit.
8. You may want to let your parents or in-laws know how much you would value their involvement in your child’s life. They may open up with you about their hesitations or fears. They may make a greater effort if they are aware of your willingness to make the children available for them to visit.
Grandparents are important. Their absence can be difficult for a child. With your love, support and guidance she can learn to handle relational stress with grace and compassion.
Why not offer your child’s grandparents a Kindle book as a gift?
Check out this link to learn more about my Kindle book for grandparents, One Endless Line of Faith. For only 4.99 this book is a 30 Day Prayer Guide filled with devotionals, Scripture references, prayer suggestions and dozens of ideas for helping grandparents and grandchildren strengthen their connection.