Grandfamilies: Raising the Grandkids


Plenty of kids are being raised by their grandparents these days. It can be a very loving, positive, rewarding and beneficial experience for both generations, but this family arrangement is not without its challenges. There can be unexpected financial and lifestyle strains for the older adults and, depending on sometimes complex reasons for the change in living arrangements, there can also be legal issues to deal with too.

After all, bedwetting, kids’ nightmares, after-school activities and Grade 6 math homework can be challenging to tackle when you’re 30 or 40. When you’re 70, the new routines, issues and expectations may take some adjustment.

Now, researchers at the University of Missouri are analyzing how grandfamilies cope with pressures created by this increasingly common family arrangement.

“Our research to date has found that grandfamilies who employ more consistent, meaningful and purposeful rituals such as vacationing, celebrating holidays, and engaging in faith-based or cultural experiences may be more likely to feel closer as a unit,” notes Karen Traylor-Adolph, a doctoral candidate with the counseling psychology department in the MU College of Education. “Also, those families report fewer problems for their children at school, as well as fewer hyperactivity problems at home. Similarly, grandfamilies who have established routines such as scheduled time for homework, meal times and behavioral consequences that are specific may feel closer as a unit. These trends are significant because they highlight the strengths of these ‘non-traditional’ families, as well as provide some insights in to how to best help them prosper.”

Recent studies suggest that, in some cases, when grandparents don’t have legal custody of the children in their care, it can be more difficult to apply for support programs. What’s more, grandparents raising younger children may be concerned about the physical challenges of parenting and the doubts about their own health, Traylor-Adolph notes.

However, there are supports and resources available:

On its website, NICE (National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly) provides a list of Financial Resources for Ontario Grandparents Raising their Grandchildren.

CANGRANDS is a not-for-profit organization devoted to providing kinship support for caregiver families across Canada.

And the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services details its Support for Grandparents Caring for Children in need of Protection