There are many reasons why grandparents find themselves raising their grandchildren. Drug dependence and mental health issues, teen pregnancy or abandonment, and parental death all may lead to the development of skipped-generation grandfamilies. Not only do these families face the challenges of bonding, adjustment, and responding to questions that don’t have easy answers, they are significantly more likely to face the challenges of everyday family life than are typical families. According to Generations United (www.gu.org), the children experience higher rates of physical and mental health issues, the families on average are at a lower socioeconomic status, and the arrangement is most likely to be informal, thus limiting their access to resources from social services.
The grandfamily provides a unique challenge for seniors who had intentions of living out their retirement years without much obligation or added responsibility. People are designed to be in their peak mental, physical, and emotional states during the adult years in which child-raising is most common (25-45). By raising children in a skipped-generation household, the parent and child units tend to experience more distance as they were raised in two different worlds. Parents of the next generation struggle to stay up on modern trends, technology, and culturally-acceptable means of parenting. In skipped-generation families, the double-generation gap only causes that much more disconnect.
There are a few crucial steps for newly-formed skipped-generation families. One is to determine legal guardianship and signing rights. In the age of privacy and security, more challenges will be present for those who aren’t legally in custody of their grandchildren. Social services can be a support, though some may prefer not to have them involved, which is their right. Should those services be desired, they may contact 1-877-YMCA-4-KIN. Support groups are available for the grandparents raising the grandchildren in San Diego. Peer support is a valuable tool and can be found at the Rose House Kinship Association Center in El, Cajon, and at the Foster and Kinship Care Education Program at Grossmont College. Generations United is a national resource and can provide information or links to resources in other areas at GU.org.
Raising children is hard enough the first time. Add on the limitations some experience in their older years, the stronger likelihood of physical and mental health issues in the children, and the fact they are raising someone else’s children, and the task is that much more daunting. Support is available for those who want it, and for those who don’t, the first step may be just acknowledging that this is not going to be easy.