Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Jan Fowler

is author of the best-selling book, “Hot Chocolate for Seniors”(winner of national & international awards); winner of Gold Halo Award from the So. California Motion Picture Council for Outstanding Literary Achievement; winner of First Place Excellence in Journalism Award (SPJ –Southern CA); Town & Gown “Phenomenal Woman” Award; former television host & KSPA radio host of “Senior Living at its Best with Jan Fowler”; speaker, contributing author for “Savvy Women Revving Up for Success”; founder of Starburst Inspirations, Inc. 501(c) (3) nonprofit which supports Redlands Drug Court. Jan welcomes feedback and comments about her columns and invites you to leave her a message on her website.

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Imagine having to place breakfast on the table bright and early each weekday morning (no exceptions), then scurry about as you help gather up jackets, pencils, a lunchbox, or books if need be, before driving your grandson or granddaughter to school in time for that 7:30 am. bell to signal the start of the school day. (Whew!)

I was astonished to learn that according to the 2020 census; more than seven million grandparents in the U.S. are reportedly raising a grandson or granddaughter under the age of 18 in their household. And it often comes at a time when seniors themselves are coping with retirement and adjusting to the aging process which includes declining strength and energy.

The situations and reasons why minor children live with grandparents vary. Sometimes a parent has died, has been incarcerated, has a drug or alcohol addiction, or simply needs the financial and social support.

One grandmother said she received a shocking phone call one day from a social worker who reported that her 11 year-old granddaughter was found badly neglected and in need of a stable home.  The father was serving jail time in a neighboring state, and the girl’s mother had just been arrested on drug charges.

In another instance, a young drug-addicted mother was taken away from her 10 month-old baby and two toddlers who were found unfed and seriously neglected.  All three of these children were then brought to their grandmother’s who lovingly met their needs but who gradually suffered severe exhaustion until her daughter’s release from jail at the end of the year.

A grandparent’s life becomes filled with making adjustments, adjustments, adjustments as they do the best they can to nobly help to parent and nurture a grandchild.

Such was the case for one grandparent who said that her daughter the mother of her grandson–died in the hospital on a Friday night, but that her son, who would now be living with his grandmother, wanted to return to school on Monday morning.  When he arrived, however, he was completely unprepared for the kids at school to tease him cruelly, Ha, ha, your momma’s dead!  Your momma’s dead! I have a mama and you don’t

The teasing by these mean-spirited fifth graders turned out to be such a harrowing experience for the boy that he chose to be home-schooled for the next three years by his grandmother, who then also devoted herself to driving him to special athletic events and extracurricular activities and events in order to enrich his life.

Becoming a parent to a grandchild is a very important new role. And inasmuch as some grandparents describe having a greater sense of purpose in life because of this added responsibility, others report that it takes considerable effort and flexibility just to maintain stable emotional health.

Grandparents usually have lots of stories to tell about their family history which helps children understand who they are and why they should feel proud.

While some of us would salivate at the remote possibility of having grandchildren move in with us so that we could introduce them to their cultural heritage–including family recipes–someone is bound to remind me that there would also likely be twice as many loads of laundry and dishes to do.  To which I would reply, No problem, because there would likely be twice as many hands to handle it!

And, oh, did I mention that oftentimes they say that children will listen to grandparents when they refuse to obey parents?

In my opinion, anyone brave enough to open their home for a grandchild to move in requires grace from above.  So I tip my hat with respect to anyone who has nobly opened their home and sacrificed their privacy in order to sprinkle the sacred life of a child with love.

[Jan Fowler is an award-winning columnist who may be reached at]

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