According to the 2010 Census, almost 5 million children live in a grandparent headed household. Most of these are either the grandparent raising the grandchild alone or the child’s family moved back in with the parents. There are numerous reasons this could happen, and it’s likely you know someone in this situation.
In our case, we’ve found we have a lot of well meaning friends and more often than not acquaintances who feel led to speak their mind when finding out our situation. Having searched the web, I wondered if there was a list of the “what not to say” to a grandparent responsible for raising their grandchildren. The truth is, there’s not much on the subject at all. So, for your convenience and our peace of mind – here is my list:
1. You need to set some boundaries – Unbeknownst to the innocent bystander, our situation is not always about boundaries. It often has nothing to do with them. Boundaries are a misunderstood term and warrants its own blog post. Suffice it to say, this is not the problem and your opinion won’t change our situation.
2. We don’t do kids – We don’t do kids either. Well, we didn’t do kids. But now we do. And the truth is we don’t expect everyone to understand our situation. If you want to meet for dinner or go out sometime, just invite us. We really don’t need the extra verbiage added. If you are concerned we will bring the kids, there are ways you can let us know it’s an adult only night without reminding us with negative statements.
3. You just need to make **insert child’s name here** do **insert opinion here** - One of the greatest battles we fought in the beginning of this adventure was trying to make our child be a good parent. We lost the battle. What we won was the peace of mind knowing we can’t make our child do anything, but we can be the best parent to our grandchildren we know how.
4. You should get child support! – Why yes, yes we should. But we don’t. In our situation (and they are all different) the parents have the child support order between them. We would love financial help, but fortunately for us our child is not our Provider. It’s a battle we would not win and choose not to fight. That doesn’t mean some grandparents wouldn’t fight it, but for us we laid this one down a long time ago.
5. Why are you doing that for him (her)? – We aren’t doing it for him. I am sure to the outsider it appears as if we are but the truth is it’s not about the adults. A very wise man told me recently we are enabling if we do the things our child can do for himself. So no, I don’t do his laundry and I do not pay his bills. But I care for these children because it’s not about him, it is about what is best for the children.
6. What a guy! (Or other sarcastic remark)- I know it must be hard for some, but making derogatory or sarcastic remarks about my child doesn’t accomplish anything. He is still my son and I’m his mom. I won’t make negative comments about your child’s actions so please don’t comment on mine.
7. Don’t you know how to say “no”? – Now there’s a loaded question. I hope and pray you are never in my situation or have to walk in my shoes. But we didn’t wake up one day with things this way. It’s a slow fade and you find in many cases “no” isn’t an option.
8. You’ve already taken on too much, you don’t need to do **insert whatever responsibility here**. – I wonder if this same thing is said to mothers of preschoolers? I know many young mothers who take on leadership and volunteer responsibilities with no problem. I have to wonder why it seems as if raising two preschoolers at my age is seen as a reason to rule out what I can get involved in? I know those saying this say it because they care for me. But I want to get involved, it is great for me to get out of the house and do things. Please don’t rule me out of a position or responsibility because you don’t understand my family dynamics.
We are very blessed to be in this season in our life and we have great joy in the opportunity to speak in to our grandchildren. However, many grandparents in our situation have not reached this level of peace yet. They struggle with shame, guilt, frustration, anger… the list goes on. Remember to treat them with respect and understanding, but be careful not to push your opinions on them. They can be sensitive and take offense easily in these situations. Above all, treat them as you would any other friend who has small children. Encourage and remind them of the great opportunity this is to be such a powerful influence on these precious children.
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