Grandparents Raising Grandkids: Perspective of the Grandchildren

Family Caregiving September 23, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

With so many children being raised by grandparents, it is important to understand how grandchildren feel about their relationships with their parents and grandparents. There is very little research on how grandchildren think and feel about being raised by grandparents. What we do know is based on interviews with adolescent grandchildren.

Relationships with Parents

Grandchildren living with grandparents often struggle in their relationships with their parents. Although grandchildren may want to spend time with their parents, their parents may be absent or unavailable. When parents are involved in grandchildren’s lives, they can sometimes be unpredictable or break promises. As a result, some grandchildren’s feelings about their parents include anger, grief, resentment, and confusion. In addition to these difficult feelings, grandchildren may feel frustrated when their parents try to discipline them or act like a parent--especially if they have not been very involved in caring for the child. Grandchildren may also distrust their parents and be aware that their parents cannot provide them with a safe environment.

There are some grandchildren who describe positive relationships with their parents. In these relationships, parents tend to be more like siblings or friends. In these cases, grandchildren say that they enjoy doing things with their parents such as eating out, going shopping, playing video games, and seeing movies. Grandchildren having these types of relationships with their parents often say that they want to spend more time together.

Relationships with Grandparents

Grandchildren often describe close, trusting relationships with grandparents who are raising them. Many grandchildren describe their grandparents as being just like parents. Also, grandchildren often believe that their grandparents provide stability in their lives and want to help them grow into productive adults. Grandchildren feel that their grandparents give them values, a strong work ethic, and a desire to succeed.

In addition to feeling close, grandchildren describe a strong sense of gratitude and appreciation for the work their grandparents have put into raising them. Grandchildren recognize the sacrifices their grandparents have made and say that they want to provide care for their grandparents in the future. Still, grandchildren may worry that they are a burden to their aging grandparents and wonder if their grandparents really want to be raising them.

Although many grandchildren are close to their grandparents, conflict and tension may occur. When grandchildren have trouble getting along with their grandparents it is often because of the generation gap. Grandchildren and grandparents may not agree about clothing, music, leisure activities, household rules, chores, and dating.

For information about the experiences of young grandchildren

References:

  • Dolbin-MacNab, M. L., Nielson, L. R., & Keiley, M. K. (2005, November). "Family relationships of adolescents being raised by grandparents." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Council on Family Relations, Phoenix, AZ.
  • Messing, J. T. (2006). "From the child’s perspective: A qualitative analysis of kinship care placements." Children and Youth Services Review. 28: 1415-34.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.