How To Raise A Grandchild When You’d Rather Not


You’ve already raised your family and you’ve earned the right to live life as you wish. Until one of your children is unable to parent and you’re forced to raise a grandchild. 

how to raise a grandchild when you'd rather not

Starting over in a parenting role is the last thing most of us want. And the circumstances surrounding the decision will undoubtedly be charged with intense emotions. Thus, we may feel caught between our child and our grandchild. And although we desire to help both, we can’t help but feel overwhelmed and perhaps robbed of freedom.  

First, we must understand that our feelings do not expose a lack of love. We love our grandkids as much as the most doting grandparents and delight to see them happy, healthy and well cared for. However, when we become directly responsible to make that happen, it will completely change our lives. And we’re going feel it when we raise a grandchild.

A dear friend of mine is raising her nine-year-old grandson. She’s 64. When she took him in, she made a list of promises to herself that went something like this:

  • I will still take my walks and follow my diet plan.
  • I’ll still attend my book club every Thursday.
  • My home will remain clean and tidy.
  • I’ll find three reliable babysitters.
  • I will not let my daughter drop in without calling ahead.
  • I will not go bankrupt caring for my grandson.

This was her short list. However, the methodical person that she is, made many more in greater detail. And so far, so good, for the past four years. But she’s had her moments when she’d rather kiss her grandson goodbye and look forward to seeing him in a couple weeks–as most grandparent’s do. Especially early on. But she let it sink in–she must raise a grandchild.

There’s no greater sorrow than watching a hurting child 

how to raise a grandchild when you'd rather not

Her young grandson knew only two things. Mommy had gone away to a hospital to stay there for a while. But no one knew how long of a while. And grandma was letting him sleepover every night. He was a quiet little guy but would sometimes sob when she least expected it. Like in the checkout line or at the library. 

She decided prior to the outbursts that she would kindly ask the onlookers to give them a few minutes in which she stopped everything and held him close.

I was with them on one such occasion and I marveled at her strength. She calmed him without bribe nor promise. She had nothing else to give him and promises were neither hers nor his. They were winging it together. Her list?

  • Let him cry whenever and wherever he needs to.
  • Step aside to comfort him.
  • Don’t be offended by onlookers.
  • I will raise a grandchild and love him as my own.

There’s no greater frustration than not understanding your grandchild’s homework

how to raise a grandchild when you'd rather not

As her grandson moved up to each new grade, she experienced joy and personal inadequacy. She had to pay a tutor for English grammar and sometimes math. She would laugh and say, “But I will not go bankrupt!”

I recall the first time I noticed a homework page stuck to her refrigerator rather than a drawing of his favorite superhero. And eventually, a homework chart was posted. It signified the passage from grandparenting to mothering. She had to raise a grandchild.

The list for school?

  • I will make sure his homework is done directly after school.
  • I will check his teacher’s parent portal for classroom news.
  • I will get the best tutors I can afford.
  • I will “talk up” college so he will have a future.

There’s no greater anger than facing a rebellious child

how to raise a grandchild when you'd rather not

I’m using the word “anger” very honestly. When one of my own grandsons rolled his eyes at me and said, “I already know grandma, stop telling me!” I felt anger. And if he were one of my sons, he would have gotten a much longer lecture and perhaps grounded from video-gaming.

Why? Because if he already knew not to leave a gallon of milk out to spoil–all night–then why does he continue to do so?

Then I watched my friend deal with an eye-rolling and verbally disrespectful grandson. She had him stand in the corner because she was afraid to spank him. Like we did our own. And I thought to myself, “If that were my grandson, I’d spank him in a heartbeat!” 

Her rules for discipline?

  • Tell him he’s being disrespectful and I’ll not listen to him.
  • Walk away.
  • Come back when we are both calm and issue a punishment.
  • Talk to his school counselor if this doesn’t work.
  • Try my darnedest to stay away from a shrink!

One of life’s greatest joy is watching a child achieve and grow

how to raise a grandchild when you'd rather not

It wasn’t all trial and error and try again, with my friend and her grandson. She loved to teach him new things and for the most part, he loved to learn. However, I recall their attempt to fly a kite. As one of my grandsons would say, “Major fail!”

Yet, to their rescue came a gentleman who had been watching from a park bench. The day was saved. But my friend felt the sting of watching her grandson connect with the kind-hearted man knowing he would not have a consistent male role model.

This got her down more than anything. She wondered how he would turn out without a father. And no grandpa. And so she called her pastor to inquire about men in the church that may willing to step in. Would anyone help to raise a grandchild?

The list:

  • I will not blame myself for the situation my grandson faces.
  • I will do what I can as a woman.
  • I will try to make connections for him with upstanding men.
  • I will trust God.

Another joy? Helping the child discover their skills and talents

how to raise a grandchild when you'd rather not

Have you ever watched your child or grandchild find themselves in this world? What a beautiful thing that can be. My oldest daughter was into the sciences. the next was a social butterfly and the third into beauty and fashion. Each grew to do their thing with grace and skill.

My dear friend struggled to find the right hobby for her grandson. He tried some of this and that without finding a connection. She didn’t want him to go along with the crowd into TV, video gaming, and cell phones. But those were the “past times” of all of his peers.

She decided to enroll him into self-discovery classes at the library. Each summer they tried three new classes. He took drawing, Lego building, ceramics, painting, robotics, and archery. As for my friend?

  • I will help my grandson find his place in this world.
  • I will praise him for every new thing he tries.
  • I will surround him with people who can boost his interests.
  • I secretly hope he will love wood-working like his grandpa did.

He chose robotics. She paid for two weeks of robotics camp each summer. She was acing this–raising a grandchild.

There’s no greater energy-zapper than playing with a young boy

how to raise a grandchild when you'd rather not

When two grandparents are in the house they can share the rough and tumble of their live-in grandchild. But when it’s one on one or the grandparent has physical limitations, it can be exhausting.  

We love to chase our toddling granddaughter or put the push behind the swing for our kindergarten grands but when they’re running around the house 24-7 there’s no way to keep up.

My friend’s grandson loved to run. Literally. He ran into tables, doors, and walls. She wondered if there was something wrong with his ability to calculate and navigate. And she dreaded being told he was hyperactive or labeled ADHD. 

He was labeled ADHD. However, she found a host of comrades at church and the school social worker and his teachers stepped in to help. And a few of her friends at her Thursday night book club also had grands with ADHD. Her commitment?

  • I will not let ADHD ruin my grandson’s life.
  • I will not let ADD ruin my collection of angel figurines. 
  • I will study about and learn ways to lessen its effect–if possible.
  • I will learn to raise a grandchild with all of his personal quirks.

There nothing more worrisome than a sick child

how to raise a grandchild when yo'd rather not

All of us will recall those days rocking our sick babies all night long. They can’t tell us what hurts. All they can do is lay in a firey-hot heap against our chests. And whimper.

Don’t you hate the whimpers? If you could wave a magic wand to calm their little souls, you would do it in an instant.

I have vivid memories of my mother-in-law rocking my baby in the hospital. My daughter had a high fever and lay lethargically across her grandma’s large tummy. And my mother-in-law told me I was too skinny for my daughter to get comfortable. 

When it came to my friend, she not only took her grandson–turned son–to the doctors, counselors, and pharmacist, but she also put a baby monitor in his 9-year-old room.

She knew her limits. She could not stay up all night each time he felt ill. And for the first two years, he was in her home, she caught everything he brought in. She decided to get out her ancient baby monitor to see if it still worked. Bingo!

He could call for grandma as needed. And for all the times she lay awake pondering his wellbeing and that of her own, she would listen to his stuffy nose and pray. And sometimes shed a tear because she must raise a grandchild.

The list:

  • I will restock my medicine cabinet with pediatric cough, cold and fever medications.
  • I will search the internet for the latest methods to treat childhood illnesses.
  • I will keep the vaporizer clean and ready.
  • I will have his pediatrian’s number on speed-dial.

Through it all – Enjoying your live-in grandchild

raising a grandchild when you'd rather not

The longest one of my grands has stayed with me is for two weeks. And I found that a bit taxing. However, I’d do it again with renewed vim and vigor. For my friend, it was quite another matter.

He was mainly with her and stayed over-night with other relatives only a weekend here and there. She determined to keep her chin up and to enjoy him.

This didn’t come quickly nor easily. For the first year, they mainly worked to figure each other out. She kept notes and he tried her patience. But once he realized grandma was no pushover, he straightened out and flew right. Most of the time.

Yet, she reports that it took another year to settle it in her mind that he was actually hers to keep. Her daughter came in and out of the picture and at times my friend thought her grandson would go back. Only for her daughter to have a relapse.

The court system became involved and her grandson eventually became her own. Then there were new worries. Who would take him in if anything happened to her?

The end of the list:

  • I will keep a new list–always.
  • I will update it as to who seems the most likely to finish raising my grandson.
  • I will leave them the biggest portion of my estate.
  • I will leave him with money for college through a trust fund.
  • I will be thankful that I was able to step in for my grandson’s good.

If you must raise a grandchild, think about the things my friend had to revisit, reinvent or learn from scratch. Make your lists and get help along the way. And may God bless your willing heart and sustain you in every way–everyday.