Articles and Topics
We are raising our grandchild for his parents; what do we tell the child?
Q: My husband and I have been bringing up our granddaughter since she was a baby (she is now 3). She’s a happy child, and seems content and secure in her home. Our son still lives at home, sees his baby every day, and plays with her once in a while. Her mum used to live with us, but she moved out when the baby was a little under 2. In the beginning, she would see the baby every two weeks (her choice), but for a long time now she has only shown up every three weeks and never calls in between visits. The baby seldom asks about her mum, but when she does I tell her that her mummy is working or sleeping...that she works a lot. What should I say? The mum was 18 when the baby was born and is now 21. Our granddaughter is mature for her age and very alert, so we never bad-mouth her mum. But the truth is that mum is too busy still being a teenager and has no time for her baby.
A: I really feel for you. Millions of grandparents in this country are giving up their retirement years to raise their grandchildren. This is what often happens when children have babies. Your granddaughter's mother certainly sounds too immature to be a really committed mother. But what about your son? Are you putting any pressure on him to have his own place and to raise his daughter? Be careful not to make the mistake of doing so much that even your own son lets you take over his responsibilities.

Your 3-year-old granddaughter cannot fully understand this situation. You are wise not to criticize her mother. I suggest you explain to your granddaughter that her mum can’t take care of her right now, and has asked you to be her mummy for awhile.

Women like your granddaughter's mother have a pattern of popping back into their children’s lives and suddenly taking them without any thought of how this harms their children. I, therefore, recommend your son consult an attorney to establish sole custody to protect your granddaughter from this kind of experience. It would be wonderful if mum grows up and can someday responsibly take over. However, I have seen many mothers take their children back out of anger against the grandparents or because they suddenly feel they want to be a mother. This is very hard on a child and can cause emotional problems.