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GrandFamilies Guide

Raising Grandchildren: Family Issues

Find help for grandkids battling emotional challenges

When grandparents or other relatives step in to care for children, there is usually a family crisis or chronic problem. It can be a challenge to juggle raising children while dealing with family challenges.

See also: GrandFamilies Resources.

My grandchildren get upset by their parents coming in and out of their lives. What should I do?

It is up to you to set boundaries to provide stability for your grandchild. Many children want to spend time with their parents, but end up feeling let down if their parents are erratic and unreliable. If life isn't stable, your grandchildren may be confused and feel badly about themselves. Sometimes this can cause behavior problems or mental health issues for your grandchildren.

  • It might be helpful to ask an objective third party to help you work out a schedule for visits with the parents, along with rules and responsibilities. Try to be flexible but have clear limits or boundaries. Work together to do what's best for your grandchildren; their needs are top priority. A trained mediator can help, or a trained faith professional, counselor or family friend.

  •  If you go to court for custody or guardianship, you can ask the court to set up a regular schedule for when and where your grandchildren's parents can spend time with them (visitation). Sometimes the court says parents can only have "supervised" visitation, which means they cannot be alone with the child. 

  •  If you hope that your grandchildren's parents will one day be able to raise your grandchildren again, keep in mind that it's helpful for the children to have an ongoing relationship with their parents — even if it is rocky at times.

My grandchildren's parents are addicted to alcohol and drugs; is there help for our family?

Abuse of or addiction to alcohol or other drugs (substance abuse) is often called a "family disease" because it affects the whole family. Substance abuse can lead to many other problems, including child abuse and neglect, incarceration (being in jail), and even the death of a parent. There are many emotions and conflicts when a family member is addicted. You can't control the parent's behavior, but you can do your best to have limits and give your grandchildren security.

  •  You might want to join a support group for people who have family members or friends who are substance abusers, such as Al-Anon Family Groups. The confidential meetings  help you learn how to cope and be healthy yourself.
  • Al-Anon also has groups for children whose parents are substance abusers called "Alateen", and "Alatot" for children.
  • You might also want to get personal counseling from a therapist who can help you and your grandchildren learn how to cope with substance abuse in the family.

Next: Help a child cope with the death of a parent. »

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National and state fact sheets listing services, programs,  benefits, laws and policies for grandparents raising children. Read

GrandFamilies Guide

Information, tips and tools for grandparents raising grandchildren. Read


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