Please Take In Your Grandchildren

This is taken from

“Please take in your grandchildren” said the social workers

The Grandparents’ Association often hears from grandparents who have had to take in, and raise, their grandchildren with little notice – even out of the blue. It’s sometimes known as the midnight call syndrome when a call or visit from a social worker can turn a grandparent’s life upside down.  Many talk about how they had no choice – they wanted to keep their grandchildren out of care in any way they could.

“ We were fast asleep.  It was a social worker saying they had got our grandchildren and were putting them into emergency care – but wanted to check if we could look after them – preferably permanently.  Of course we took them in!”

Here we share some help and guidance from grandparents from across the world  for those who are suddenly faced with taking in their grandchildren.

How should I deal with the children?

If you have not been prepared for your grandchildren suddenly to come into your care there will be a host of things to deal with. There are the obvious practical issues, such as where does everyone sleep, how do we clothe the children, how do we stretch the budget, and what will everyone eat? There are emotional issues, too: a turmoil of feelings that you and the children will be coping with.

Are they in shock?

Be prepared for the fact that the children will no doubt be in shock. They have gone through whatever trauma has brought them to you – and they are likely to be upset and scared. They might show their feelings by being quiet and withdrawn, angry and rude, or they might follow you around and cry, wanting attention and reassurance.

There may be times when you hear things that you wish you hadn’t. There will undoubtedly be times when you will have feelings that overwhelm you just as they do the children. These are normal grief reactions in a difficult situation and you or your grandchildren, or both, may need professional help in order to deal with them.

“I would not have given up my freedom, great social life and holidays with friends to start over again with bringing up a child on my own, having to find a babysitter on the rare occasions I now go out socially, if I did not wholeheartedly love and wish to provide my grandson with the best possible future in the unfortunate circumstances we find ourselves in.”

Love and reassurance

Your grandchildren will benefit most from knowing that you love them  at this point and reassurance that they are safe and that you are not going to leave them. Hugs are important if they are willing to accept them and most importantly they will want to know what to expect from you. You need to let them know what you are doing to help make life better for them here and now.

Start by establishing some ground rules

Children like to know what’s expected of them. What they can do now they’re living at your house? For example – what time should they go to bed, what time should they get up? If they feel scared during the night let them know where you are and if it is okay to wake you up. Let them know about meal times and what there are for snacks – children that have been through a time of neglect are often malnourished. They might eat larger meals than you expect. They may be used to food being scarce and might take to hoarding food. Let them know that there is enough to go around – and encourage them to talk about their concerns and fears.

Talk with the children

You may have to rebuild trust if the children feel let down and betrayed. Older children may need to be encouraged to talk – one of the best ways to do that is to listen carefully to them. Nobody is perfect but, in the early days especially, however harassed or frustrated you feel, find other ways to let it out than around the children!  If they have been in an abusive household they will not trust you if you yell or smack them and you’ll have lost important ‘ground’ with them that you’ll have to rebuild.

Normal mixed feelings

Don’t get cross with yourself if you feel confused. One minute you may have an overwhelming need to comfort and protect your grandchildren – and the next you may be  longing for someone to just take them off your hands for a while.  That’s normal.

Medical check ups

It is a good idea for the children to have a check up with the doctor soon after they come into your care.  Children who have been through times of neglect might not have had medical or dental checks for some time so make this a priority. This introduces them to their new doctor and it lets you know whether there are any problems you need to address.  Find out if they have been immunised for instance.

Look after yourself

You may not be the type to ask for help – or ever to have thought of seeking counselling in your life. But you will find there are times when you really need an ear and some professional guidance to help you over some of the hurdles.  Things that could help:

•    Make an appointment with your local GP and let her/him know your situation and see what advice is on offer. Your GP can refer you to counseling services and some have counselors working in their practice.

•    Get some regular exercise – walking is really beneficial – as is getting out in nature.

•    Take time out for yourself – quiet time that is yours each day. Children can learn that you need times like this and they can be occupied doing something quietly as well.  Listening to music, doing something creative or just having a short snooze can be very beneficial.

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