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Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Article by Becky Dexter, LPC, Behavioral Health Therapist Clarity Health and Wellness

“Oh, I’m so tired! It can’t be 5:30 already!” Jennifer stumbled out of bed. “There is a reason that 54 year olds don’t have babies.” The 18 month old had been up several times that night. The 10 year old took forever to fall asleep, and the nine year old woke up with nightmares. “Come on Jennifer. You aren’t that old”! Then there are the inevitable thoughts of “where did I go wrong,” and “I thought my daughter was doing good.” Brittany was an honor student. She had dreams of being a nurse. He seemed like a nice guy at first. Then he got her addicted, and that was it.

The 10 year old was dropped off by her daughter saying “Mom can you just keep him for the weekend?” The nine year old came to live with her after her daughter ended up in jail. He went into DHS custody, and she had to fight to get him. She thought that was it. The kids were finally older, no more diapers, and both in school. She knew her daughter had another baby. She thought she was finally with a good man. She thought her daughter was doing good. Then out of the blue DHS called her and told her that her daughter was in jail again, and if she didn’t take her granddaughter, she would go into foster care. What do you say to that?? You say, “I’m coming,” and you figure it out later.

She loves her grandchildren deeply, but she never thought she would be doing this again. She had raised her children already. Her son has two kids of his own. She is “grandma” to them, but “mom” to her other grandchildren. She thought that she would be grandma to everyone. Get them for a day or two, spoil them, and send them home. She never expected to have to do homework, chores, bedtime, rules, and discipline again. Raising children is different now. “This isn’t the same world I raised my kids in!” Changes like internet, social media, and virtual school have ocurred.

Jennifer is one of many grandparents raising grandchildren. Many children are also being raised by an aunt or uncle, great-aunt or uncle, older sibling, or even a great-grandparent.

Disclaimer: This article does not include real client names or information, but is based on the many, many families that I have been privileged to work with of grandparents raising grandchildren. It is my hope that this article increases awareness and support.

According to recent data, over 3 million children in America are living with their grandparents.

“The percentage of the population age 30 and over who are raising grandchildren is higher in states that have higher opioid prescribing rates, according to the study, The Opioid Prescribing Rate and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: State and County Level Analysis.

Four states ­— Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi — have among the highest rates on both measures – opioid prescribing and adults age 30 and over raising grandchildren -- while Minnesota has one of the lowest,” according to

Support for Grandparents raising Grandkids

1) Self-care is especially important. Even if it is just 5-10 minutes a day. If there are two of you, take time to go places by yourselves. Make some time to do things that are fun and stress relieving. Do some of the things that you used to love to do. Make time to still do things with just the two of you if possible. The better you feel, the better your kids will also feel.

2) Don’t feel bad for asking for help. Many times people are willing to help, but don’t know help is needed or what to offer. Be very specific how people can help. Also, let go of the guilt that you feel.

3) Don’t feel guilty. You can not control what an adult child chooses to do. There is a difference between being supportive of your adult child and enabling their addiction and addictive behaviors. Don’t keep overthinking about what you wished that you had done different with your kids. Focus on breaking the cycle with your grandkids.

4) Look for resources in your area. There are also many good resources online. You can start something local like “Grandparents raising grandchildren” or “Support grandparents raising grandchildren.” Get the kids together. Trade off watching kids to give each other a break. Share stories. Share what you have found that works, and what does not.

5) Therapy. Counseling for your grandkids can be very helpful. Your child’s school counselor or PCP can be a good resource to get this started and can offer referrals to a professional counselor if needed. Therapy for yourself can also be very helpful. This can often be a very stressful and challenging time. Having support and an outlet for yourself can really help you as well.

Ways WE can support Grandparents raising grandkids:

  • Offer a listening ear. Sometimes there is not much to say. DON’T OFFER ADVICE UNLESS IT IS SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED. Just listen.
  • Offer to bring food or give a gift card. Offer to help practically by babysitting their grandkids so that the grandparent or grandparents can go out by themselves. Ask to come over and entertain the kids so they can do things they need to around the house. Donate clothes and supplies that your own kids and grandkids have outgrown or don’t need anymore.
  • Don’t forget them. Grandparents raising grandchildren are caught in a world where they are much older than the parents of their grandkids’ friends. They often do not get invited with the younger parents. They also might not get invited to the events they would usually go to with people their own age, since they have young kids. Invite them to things. Ask about the kids. Do not assume that they don’t want to do things because of the kids.
  • Ask how you can help and make it specific. Take the initiative to ask. Grandparents may be struggling but feel bad asking for help.


Outpatient Behavioral Health Services

Unity Health offers outpatient behavioral health services at our Clarity Health and Wellness clinics in Searcy, Cabot, and Newport. Our teams at Clarity Health and Wellness provide counseling and psychiatric care for those ages 4 and older.

Some specific areas of treatment include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Grief
  • Life stressors
  • Trauma
  • Psychosis
  • Caregiver support

Members of our mental health treatment team include:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychiatric residents
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioners
  • Physician assistants
  • Nurses
  • Licensed clinical social workers
  • Licensed professional counselors
  • Licensed psychological examiners

If you would like more information about our outpatient services, please call 501.203.0055 in Searcy, 870.495.1260 in Newport, or 501.422.6431 in Cabot.

Inpatient Adolescent Care

At Unity Health – Courage on the Specialty Care campus offers inpatient acute behavioral therapy for adolescents ages 12 - 17. Courage is an 11-bed unit for adolescents who are having emotional or behavioral health difficulties that require short-term hospitalization.

The young patients at Courage will meet with their psychiatrist and other members of their treatment team daily to review their progress and work on their individual goals. Patients will take part in therapeutic group activities, while an on-site certified classroom ensures that they will not fall behind in school during their stay.

Unity Health offers Behavioral Health services for ages four and older, including counseling, psychiatric care and medication management. Some specific areas of treatment include depression, anxiety, grief, life stressors, trauma and psychosis. Outpatient services are offered at Clarity Health & Wellness in Cabot, Newport, and Searcy. Inpatient services include Courage – Adolescent Behavioral Health for adolescents ages 12 to 17 in Searcy; Compass – Adult Behavioral Health for ages 18 and older in Newport and Searcy; and Clearview – Senior Behavioral Health in Newport and Searcy for those ages 55 and older. For inpatient referrals call toll free (844) 255-8229 or for more information visit