Few things are more heartbreaking than seeing your children suffer. The possible exception to that is watching your grandchildren suffer from the decisions made by your children. When it’s time for grandparents to step in as the children’s primary care giver, its not without heartache. How do you guard your grandchildren’s emotional health through so much turmoil and change?
First step is to be aware that their emotional health, as well as yours, is an important factor.
“Whatever the circumstances that led to the placement of the grandchildren with the grandparents, the children themselves will also feel the effects. Children usually mourn the loss of parental presence, even if the parents were abusive or ineffectual. Even very young children can show the effects of a change in caregivers. The emotional and behavioral problems that may result can run the gamut from mild to very serious, from acting out at school to suicidal behavior. Interestingly, boys usually demonstrate more outward effects, although girls may be suffering just as much. In the more severe cases, counseling is necessary, and that may put another strain on the grandparents’ finances, although counseling may be available through non-profit organizations for free or at reduced cost.”
It’s important to understand that you are not responsible for fixing their emotions. They have the right to have their feelings. However you can be instrumental in guiding them through their emotions safely.
Let them know that their emotions are safe with you. This will go a long way. They need to know that their hurt isn’t going to hurt you. They also need to know that you are going to stay with them through the hard spots.
Which brings us to your emotional state. Remember, children pick up on moods and emotions like sonar.
“Grandparents do not come into the parenting role unless there has been a significant disruption in the family. In the case of the death of the parents, grandparents may have to deal with their own grief, which can be crippling. In cases of drug addiction, incarceration, mental illness, AIDS/HIV and many other situations, the grief also can be almost overpowering. Less traumatic events, such as divorce or geographical relocation, carry their own burden of stress and worry over the parent’s new circumstances. In many cases, a support group of grandparents in similar situations can be a valuable resource. In other cases, counseling is called for. Sometimes grandparents and grandchildren can benefit from being counseled as a family.”
In the event of any family tragedy, I can’t stress the value of a family counselor enough. Although, we may think we are handling it just fine, often times we are just pushing through.
It’s not a sign of weakness to seek emotional help; it’s a sign of wisdom.