What about my age?
No age limit exists on the kind of generosity in the heart of those who offer to share their homes with children. Still, one concern looms in the minds of these older caregivers. This presents like a proverbial ‘elephant in the living room’. “What about my age?” is every grandparent’s concern.
Yes, from a long list of challenges grandparents who are raising their grandchildren face, the most obvious often remains unspoken. An extra layer of worry exists in the mind of older caregivers. The particular worry younger parents do not face. Most 20 to 30-year-old parents, even parents in their 40s do not carry a comparable weight. Yet a real and pressing issue haunts the minds of grandparents. “Will I even be alive through their childhood?”
Grandparents often find this vulnerability and unease difficult to discuss. Many grandparents worry, “What will happen if I am not here?” More often than not, the question remains as a low-level, unspoken dread.
Part of the reason many stay quiet is the stark fact: no soothing response exists. Most older caregivers are well aware no response can be given to loosen the grip of worry. The hard truth is, ‘Yes, you may not survive them into adulthood.’
Where does one place such a truth? How can one begin to discuss such a reasonable fear? To mention ‘keeping it in the day’ seems simplistic. To insist each of us face a lack of promised tomorrows, borders on condescending.
Grandparents need empathy and compassionate listening. The courage to share their concern goes a long way in relieving the consistency of disquiet.
Besides the relief of speaking the feelings aloud, it is helpful to consider what might happen in the worst-case scenario. Perhaps a group home arrangement can be made? Maybe godparents or friends would offer to take the children? Might other relatives help? Thinking about the possibilities can be helpful. Making a plan can be even more helpful.
I sense if grandparents hold such a legitimate concern, the children sense it as well. What’s wrong with having a frank and open discussion? Discussing the plans may be tough, but are very necessary and important. Age-appropriate conversations help grandchildren understand what might happen to them. A pervasive worry for them as well.
This conversation can be had with outside help because it is very delicate not only for the grandparents but also for the children. Seek the counsel of a professional familiar with your situation and able to offer sound guidance. A counselor who is capable of interacting comfortably with children and being part of the process will be a valuable asset.
A conversation about the future need not be grim. A realistic and responsible discussion may make everyone a little clearer and a little less burdened by the unspoken truth. This challenging ‘talk’ can be proper and soothing.