Raising kids is an incredible blessing that is also exceedingly difficult. You pour your heart and soul - not to mention blood, sweat, and tears - into guiding tiny humans into adulthood. It’s both joyful and exhausting. It’s a job that you work yourself out of, knowing there is a finite amount of time that your children will be in your care. Except (cue record scratch sound effect) you find yourself in a growing club: grandparents raising their grandchildren.
Grandfamilies, custodial grandparents, kinship families - you have a whole lexicon unto yourselves. While you are a rapidly growing community of people (according to an AARP study, 11% of grandparents live in the same household as a grandchild, and of those, 5% are the primary caregivers1), many of you feel isolated and ill-equipped. Added to the “normal” rigors of child-rearing is the potential disconnect created by the generation gap and the difficult emotions both you and your grandchildren may be wrestling with regarding your circumstances. Needless to say, you have a lot on your plate.
My maternal grandmother raised me, and now that I’m a parent, I have a whole new level of respect for what she experienced and the sacrifices she made. As a child, I knew nothing about her struggles as a widow on a fixed income, much less the grief she felt seeing her daughter succumb to addiction. She didn’t have a roadmap for getting me medical care, school enrollment, or other services for which she had no legal standing, much less how to help me cope with the abandonment and depression I experienced. Given her limited resources, she did an amazing job. I’m glad that she lived into my adulthood (by which time I had come to deeply appreciate her) so that I could thank her for rescuing me from a dangerous situation with an ill-fated trajectory.
There are more resources available for custodial grandparents today than during my childhood. For example, AARP offers a “Getting Started Guide” for grandfamilies that includes everything from support groups to housing information to advice on school and daycare. Generations United maintains a grandfamilies resource page in addition to their National Center on Grandfamilies, which focuses on both programs and policies to help families like yours. Likewise, Grandfamilies.org provides free online legal resources and a searchable database of applicable laws. These are just a few among many; both national and local organizations are dedicated to providing assistance to and raising awareness of kinship care.
Hopefully, these resources can provide tangible help and some peace of mind in knowing there is a network of people and organizations who care about the tremendous role you’ve assumed. In the meantime, here are six practical tips for you during your second round of raising children.
 David, Patty, and Brittne Nelson-Kakulla, Ph.D. 2018 Grandparents Today National Survey: General Population Report. Washington, DC: AARP Research, April 2019. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00289.001
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