Raising Your Children's Children

Reagent, catalyst, or crucible to your lifestyle and marriage?

Sarah* works in middle management with a national company. Charlie took early retirement to stay at home when it became apparent that they'd have to raise their daughter Abby's child, because Abby and her husband refuse to take responsibility for their own lives, much less that of their child.

Sarah and Charlie face an increasingly common circumstance. Four and a half million caregivers are raising more than seven million children in the United States today. Most of these are grandparents raising their children's children. Others are family members caring for a relative's child. While some of these cases arise because of the death, mental illness, or incarceration of one or both parents, 80 percent or more are because of the drug and alcohol addictions of the children's parents.

"People are less than honest if they say something like this doesn't affect their marriage," says Pat Owens, who with her husband, is raising a grandson and is co-founder of GrandFamilies of America (www.grandfamiliesofamerica.org). This organization provides grandparents and other kinship caregivers with tools for navigating the complex government systems they meet in attempting to help relative children.

Decide Whose Problem It Is

Grandparents raising grandkids are destined to make a painful discovery. You cannot fix other people's problems, even if the person who is failing is your own much-loved child.

Your focus must be on keeping the grandchild safe. Untangle yourself from your child's trials and tribulations. This is difficult because this is your child we're talking about. How can you bear to think of her in need, maybe homeless?

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May 25

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