Parenting in Australia can be hard…
A growing number of grandparents are taking on the parental responsibility of raising their grandchildren. Also known as ‘kinship care’ this means that grandparents raising grandchildren are giving up the traditional benefits and responsibilities associated with the grandparent/grandchild relationship.
Raising grandchildren can therefore present many challenges and can mean many adjustments need to be made but can equally provide opportunities for richer, more meaningful and rewarding relationships.
1. Understanding rights as grandparents
It can be helpful for grandparents considering taking on care of their grandchildren to seek legal advice regarding their rights and responsibilities.
It can also be helpful to seek guidance and support from agencies about how they can support kinship carers with financial help and opportunities for respite. You may find it useful to speak to Department of Communities and Justice and Centrelink as a starting point.
2. Processing feelings
Whilst the reasons grandparents are called upon to raise grandchildren are many and varied, the circumstances involved are often associated with a considerable amount of grief, loss and trauma for the children primarily, and also for the adults involved.
It can therefore be very helpful for grandparents to seek support and counselling in expressing and processing their own grief and loss, including mixed feelings about their children being unable to care for their grandchildren. Having support and space to process difficult and conflicting feelings and emotions about these circumstances, means that grandparents are then better placed to be able to support their grandchildren doing the same.
3. Responding to children’s behaviour
Many grandparents will acknowledge that they raised their children following different parenting practices, values and norms and therefore many adjustments are involved in taking on the role of caring for their grandchildren. They have also reported that understanding the impact of trauma on children’s relationships, development and behaviour and learning new, trauma-informed ways of responding to children, requires ongoing support and training, which can sometimes be difficult to find and access.
4. Managing challenges around contact between children and their parents and family dynamics
Children growing up in their grandparent’s care will need support in maintaining contact with their parents and in understanding and making sense of their life-story and developing a healthy identity.
Responding to children’s disclosures in relation to experiences of abuse or neglect by their parents, can also be very difficult for carers and require additional support.
5. Self-care, health and wellbeing
Finding time and opportunities for self-care can be difficult but is very important for grandparents raising grandchildren, as is maintaining social networks.
Taking on the full-time care of grandchildren when health can be declining can also put additional pressures on grandparents raising grandchildren.
6. The Role of Parent Line
Parent Line counsellors are all professionally qualified and experienced in providing counselling support to parents and carers over the phone. Parent Line counsellors can provide ongoing emotional and psychological support to carers, opportunities to reflect and debrief on the challenges and adjustments associated with caring for grandchildren and to help identify effective strategies to respond to children’s behaviour. Parent Line counsellors can also provide assistance with finding appropriate face-to-face, local referrals.
The service is accessible from 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday and 4pm-9pm Saturday and Sunday. Callers routinely provide feedback to Parent Line that they feel that Parent line counsellors are extremely supportive, non-judgemental and highly skilled.
Additional Resources and Supports
This service runs workshops and webinars around issues like understanding and managing children’s behaviour, making family visits less stressful as well as running support groups for carers.
Carer Support Line – 1300 782 975
9am to 5pm Monday to Friday
Carers Gateway Counselling Service – 1800 227 301
8am to 6pm weekdays
This website provides a list of carer support group contacts
Law Access – 1300 888 529
Provide legal advice
The Australian Government Department of Human Services Grandparent Advisers
Provide information about payment and support services 1800 245 965