Grandkids upset? Birthparents out of control? Ever feel like you’ve face-planted after giving your all? The truth is life can sometimes be beautiful and other times painful and messy. The great thing about grandmas (and grandpas) is that they never, never give up…but sometimes not quitting doesn’t look like what anyone who hasn’t lived through a similar experience could imagine.
Raising grandkids is tough, but you are tougher.
“The truth is, you’re not supposed to know everything about being a parent—it’s a skill you have to learn, just like anything else. While there’s no one “right way” to parent, there are more effective ways to handle your child’s behavior,” says Janet Lehman, MSW. Super true when parenting grandkids.
When I was in the midst of coping with my daughter’s addictions, court cases, and the post-traumatic behavior by Chad, my adopted grandson, it took every ounce of energy I had. Planning for one day at a time was all I could handle.
Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, says you have to take action to make a change happen. So attend a support group, call your case worker’s supervisor if you aren’t getting action, hire an attorney...step out so God and people can step up.
Expect good things to happen.
Say, “Something good is going to happen to me today.” Repeat daily. Be grateful for big and little wows in your life–a day with no note from the teacher, a break in the weather, an unexpected sale on gym shoes, or the call from your attorney saying both birth parents signed the papers allowing an adoption to proceed.
Celebrate out loud, “I made a little extra in tips today, so let’s go get a double ice cream cone.”
Tell things the way they could be.
“Telling it like it is has never changed anybody. It only makes them defensive,” says Rick Warren, whose Daily Hope motivational email I love. Telling them like it could be is the difference between, “You’re a lousy student and will never succeed unless you do your homework,” and “You’re good with words and I think you could rock college or be a successful songwriter.”
Don’t rely on others, or circumstances, to be happy.
With Chad there were years and years of anger, grief, manipulation and threats of running away. No day was easy but eventually I started telling him, “You don’t have the right to ruin my day,” when he was out-of-control or just teen moody. And I stopped letting him.
Successful people don’t let others shut them down, and they find joy regardless of what is happening in their life. Hard to do sometimes when your life is significantly impacted by courts, caseworkers, and/or birth parents but you can do it. You need to find your own happy (or at least peaceful) place…for me it was exercising and fluffy novels.
Avoid rabbit holes.
People with addictions hang out with other users. Many steal from each other, can turn violent, or can’t pay their portion of shared bills. None of which are your problems, no reason to listen endlessly. “Sorry I have to go but, I know you’ll figure it out,” is a good exit statement.
With grandkids we obviously can’t walk away, but we can stay focused and use emotionally neutralizing questions or statements. “What could you do differently next time?” instead of “Why did you…?” or “I apologize for yelling but that doesn’t change the fact that you hit your little brother and the consequences are no screen time the rest of the evening.”
People will tell you by their words and body language such as shuffling feet, rolling eyes, leaning in (or out) when talking how they are reacting to you. You may like to be touched; your grandchild not so much. You may thrive on details while your child’s principal is a bottom line only person. You’ll be more effective switching your communication style to mirror theirs.
We all filter life through our experiences and expectations and sometimes it better to defer a decision or conversation until we stop and analyze what is causing a negative response. Successful grandparents recognize that parenting and communication has been changed through techniques as technology and the ebb and flow of “trends”. They remain open to suggestions and adapt.
It’s mostly always too soon to quit.
Alcoholics and drug users can become sober only if they want to and have help. Try to help them; however, if the desire or ability to change isn’t there then move them to the bottom of your priority list. You may even have to move them out of your life. It’s not quitting; its loving yourself, your grandkids and them in a very painful and different way.
Accepting that a grandchild’s anger against you is really just a young kid trying to deal with life events that are too painful, too scary, or too confusing to work through with the tools they have is hard. It hurts. It’s draining and it takes it’s toll but the rewards come later so continue with the counseling, the unconditional loving, the inch by inch progress.
Hanging in there is mostly good but there are situations when grandkids have physical, mental or emotional needs that can only be met by professionals who are trained to keep them safe and give them a pathway to future success–whatever it turns out to be. Again, it’s a special kind of not quitting, a holding on in a different way.
My thanks to my sister-in-law, for sharing these photos. She’s an incredible grandma not raising grandkids, but who supports, nurtures and makes the rest of us think, “I got this!”