What Not to Say to Grandparents Raising Their Grandchildren

Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot/freedigitalphotos.net

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. James 3:5

Odds are you know a grandparent involved in the raising of their grandchildren. Over 13 million children in the US are in households with grandparents. In many of these homes, at least one of the parents resides, but today, there are roughly 2.5 million grandparents taking on the sole care of their grandchildren.

My husband and I are one of these statistics. For the last two years, two of our grandchildren, Victoria (10) and Amari (6), have lived with us. We are young for grandparents, both of us in our 50s, but this was not the plan. When we married, I had two children and he had three. Since we married with children already in the mix, we looked forward to the empty nest years. When the house emptied out, we embraced the time for just the two of us. It lasted such a short time, though.

Please do not misunderstand me. I love my grandchildren, and I am glad we are able to care for them. But let’s face it, this wasn’t what we planned on doing at this point in our lives.

People mean well. They see grandparents raising grandchildren, and they try to say something positive about it, but I’ve heard some doozies over the last two years. With that in mind, I thought I would share some of the things you should NOT say to grandparents raising their grandchildren.

  • You’re doing the right thing.  More people say this to me than any other statement. I realize people mean well, but I find this statement patronizing. Did I choose to raise my grandchildren because it was the wrong thing? Or maybe you think I’m having second thoughts, and you’re trying to talk me out of it? Of course, I’m doing the right thing. I don’t need you to remind me.
  • Grandchildren make you feel young again. Alright, let’s expose the myth in this statement. Grandchildren exhaust you. You are not in your twenties or thirties anymore. Interrupted nights of sleep are harder to bounce back from. Your body doesn’t fight off illness as well as it did when you were younger. I once heard someone restate this myth in a more accurate way:  “Grandchildren make you feel young again…for about thirty minutes. Then you feel really old.”  If you have grandchildren, and you’re not raising them, sure it’s fun to spend time with them. I relished in the times I spent with my grandkids when I was just the grandmother, not the parent. It’s non-stop, now. It doesn’t end. I can’t hand them back at the end of the day.
  • I’m sure you have more patience with them then when you raised your own kids. Not necessarily. Look at the paragraph above. The “no rules at my house grandma” can’t live at my house because this is 24/7. They live here. I push them to do their homework, eat their vegetables, go to bed, get up and get ready for school, take a bath, brush their teeth, etc. I’m older and tired. In my specific case, I’m juggling all of this plus running my business. At least when I was a single mom, I came home from my job at the end of the day and didn’t think about it. That’s not so easy when your office is in your home.
  • Can’t someone else raise them? Who? Foster care? When the social worker contacted me she assured me I didn’t want them in the foster system. I know there are good foster parents out there, but these are my flesh and blood. My grandchildren. I shouldn’t have to raise them, but I will do so before I let a stranger take on that responsibility.
  • What’s going on with their parents? If you are close enough to me to know the answer to this, then you won’t have to ask. If you have to ask, it’s none of your business. And PLEASE don’t ask in front of the grandchildren! Seriously. Just don’t. Also, please don’t ask about the missing parents every single time you see the grandparent. Believe it or not, they don’t want to dwell on that. If they feel like talking, they will.
  • I can’t believe your son/daughter is so irresponsible. Grandparents already suffer the pain of the messed up lives of their child. They don’t need you to cast judgement on their adult children. In so doing, you cast judgement on the grandparent, too.
  • Aren’t you enabling your son/daughter’s behavior by raising the children? Of all the things people have said to me, this one shocked me the most. It’s not like I whisked in and grabbed up my grandchildren at the slightest sign of poor parenting. This was not done on a whim. The decision to raise your grandchildren is a heartbreaking one to make. You do it for the safety of the grandchildren. They should not have to pay any more than they already have for the mistakes of their parents.

After reading over these statements, you may be wondering what you should say to the grandparent raising their grandchildren. Here are some welcome comments I’ve received:

  • How are you doing?
  • Can I help?
  • Why don’t you let me take the kids for the day?
  • Are you getting enough rest?

Even this is better because it expresses empathy:  I don’t know how you do it. I had mine for just a day and it took me two days to recover.

If you’ve said any of the “don’t say” statements in the past, don’t beat yourself up. There’s a reason I felt this post was necessary. I’ve heard most of them many times over. So, now you know.



The Downward Spiral of a Prodigal

© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. Luke 15:13-15

I could write several posts tracking the downward spiral of my prodigal daughter’s life, but instead I’m going to hit the highlights (lowlights?) in this one post. As I shared in The Seeds of the Prodigal, Part 2, she moved out at eighteen and her life path turned dark. There were times of light and happiness, but they aren’t what sticks with me.

Over the last twenty years, her life followed this trajectory:

Living in houses with nine or ten other “homeless” people. My child, who fussed at her grandparents for smoking, reeked of her friends’ cigarette smoke. Before long, she was smoking, too. Who knows what else she was partaking in.

Working as a waitress and spending the ready cash at the end of each shift on partying. This is the downside of tips–money at hand every single night.

Living on the street and sleeping in her car.

Choosing to have a homosexual relationship and moving in with the girl. I’m pretty sure this was a cry for attention. Once she broke up with her girlfriend, she returned to heterosexual relationships.

Obtaining a decent job with a drugstore chain working as a pharmaceutical tech. At this point, I had hope. Except for her choice of companions, she seemed on track and showed a great deal of responsibility on the job. Then, an offer for a position as assistant manager of another drugstore chain came along, and, against our advice, she took it. She and the manager were not a good match, and soon, she was out of a job because friends who spent the night at her apartment stole the keys to the store.

Not long after this, she broke up with her girlfriend. This is when she began using heroin recreationally. She stole my debit card and withdrew a large sum from our savings. When confronted, she admitted she needed help, she was now addicted. The most disturbing part was her confession that she kept buying the drugs because the dealer was a cute guy. She used drugs as an excuse to see him.

We asked law enforcement to take her to the hospital, hoping she could get help. The hospital lined her up for a rehab program, but before the hospital sent her to the rehab center, she convinced the doctors that she could get help on her own and THEY. LET. HER. GO. I begged the doctor to keep her in the program, but he refused. (This one still shocks me.)

Thus began her journeys in and out of jail for drug charges. She didn’t clean up. She made terrible decisions on relationships. She broke into our house and stole my favorite jewelry. She skipped parole meetings. 

In 2006, it caught up with her. Her parole officer picked her up for violating parole. She tested positive for drugs. She tested positive for pregnancy and spent the majority of that pregnancy in jail. When her court date arrived, the judge released her to our care under house arrest. Luckily for our unborn granddaughter, the pregnancy was not advanced enough to endanger the fetus. She started working, went to outpatient rehab, and got her life straightened out.

To this day, she says her daughter saved her life. With a new purpose in life, she found herself and although we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, she was on a better path. She still made poor relationship choices and had another baby, our grandson.

Her trek on a brighter path lasted several years, with a few slips here and there. Then it all fell apart two years ago.

So, now we are raising her children.

In the story of the prodigal son, the prodigal comes to his senses and return to his father’s home. My daughter has done this a few times. I understand that drug addicts can clean up their lives and stay clean for several years then fall back into the life of addiction. We’ve never given up on her, but each time, it’s a little harder to trust her.

I will never give up hope. As long as she’s alive, there is hope. We have an awesome God, and His salvation and grace are still available to her. I pray she turns to it before she loses her life.

Deadlines: Ours or God’s?

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Courtesy of Pixabay

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 2 Peter 3:10

Today, I’m battling deadlines. In our world, we have the advantage of knowing the deadlines. Usually, I’m on top of things. I don’t like the rush at the last hour, so I tend to plan well and meet the finish line without adding to my grey hairs. Usually.

Not today. Today, I’m struggling to keep up because this week went off-kilter and never got back on track.

What about your Christian life? Are you off-kilter, trying to get back on track. The verse above might create fear in your heart, but I hope you’ll rest in the truth of His word and find peace instead of fear.

The verses prior to this warning say:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9

The Lord wants all to come to repentance. He’s more forgiving than the deadlines I’m dealing with, but I give my deadlines more attention than the most important one: the day when the Lord returns.

What about you? Are you fighting the world’s deadlines and forgetting His? If so, I hope you pause and focus on the most important one. Seek Him first, find His love, His will, and the others should fall into place.