Grandparents who step in during a family crisis to rear their grandchildren are often unprepared for their new role. Grandchildren frequently come to live with them bearing scars of abuse and/or neglect that can result in emotional, learning, and behavior problems. Grandparents may have ambivalent feelings about taking on parenting a second time around. This is because they need to make a shift from being grandma and grandpa to being mom and dad. Additionally, navigating the many educational, legal, social, and health care systems can be daunting. It is not surprising, given the complex stressful and often tragic circumstances faced by grandparents rearing grandchildren, that these caregivers experience more symptoms of depression than grandparents who are not rearing grandchildren.
Stressors reported by many grandparents are lack of access to support services and financial issues. Many grandparents are retired or nearing retirement and live on limited incomes. When a grandchild enters the household, costs can increase significantly, especially if the grandchild has special needs. Some research finds that grandparents with fewer financial resources experience greater depressive symptoms.
Grandparents raising grandchildren often have to choose between their jobs and their families. Some, who are retired, return to work to make ends meet. Others who were working outside the home prior to rearing grandchildren have had to quit their jobs due to the high cost of child care and/or the special needs of the grandchild. These shifts can contribute to grandparent fatigue and depression.
Grandparents who have greater parenting stress are more susceptible to depressive symptoms. Parenting is a tough job in the best of circumstances. Grandparents who are called upon to rear their grandchildren face more challenges than most first-time parents.
Research has found that those grandparents who have more recently taken on the role of caregiver have more depression than those who have been in the role for a longer period of time. The transition to the new family structure takes time. All family members are adjusting to the new situation and roles. Understandably this is a time when grandparents would experience more stress and depression.
If you are a grandparent raising a grandchild, take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Here are some tips:
If you would like to learn more about depression, you might want to visit a learning lesson: