Grandparents raising grandchildren: Part eight

Maintaining contact with parents.

Michigan State University Extension recognizes that all family situations are unique. If you are raising your grandchildren, one situation you will more than likely need to address is parental visitations. In some cases, the courts will make decisions on visits, whether they happen or not, when, where and how long. In other cases, if a parent is in jail or rehab, visitations may be limited or even prohibited.

In any case, the child’s welfare should be the first and foremost consideration. For young children in the temporary care of grandparents, where the child will eventually go back to living with the parents, it is best if visits happen as soon as possible, as often as possible and take place where the child is most comfortable.

There are some things you, as the grandparent, can do to make these visits go well. If visits are possible, you should be prepared to give your grandchild support whether or not things go as planned. It is also important for all the adults involved, you and the parents, to agree to support each other so you can all do what is best for the child.

The University of Georgia Extension recommends the following tips for smooth visits:

  • Be as flexible –Talk with the parent about schedules, times, places for visits. Make every attempt to find what works best for all of you.
  • Be respectful – Don’t say bad things about their parents while in front of the children. Show up when and where you planned.
  • Communicate – Talk to your grandchild’s parent about discipline, rules, their child’s schoolwork, activities and friends.
  • Don’t compete for affection – Remember your grandchild needs to feel love from both you and their parent for healthy development. Let them know it is okay to be happy and enjoy visiting their parent.
  • Part of the routine – Talk about visits regularly. Get children involved in planning fun things they want to do.
  • Talk about emotions – Before, during and after the visits, it is common for children to have a variety of emotions. They may think their parents don’t love them anymore. They may feel it is their fault. They may act out and be angry. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. Let them know all feelings are okay. Reassure them you are there for them.

If visits in person are not possible, the University of Wisconsin Extension recommends other ways to help children maintain contact with parents.

  • Help the child write letters to send to their parent.
  • Have them make pictures with crayons, markers, or paint to send.
  • Take some photos of the child playing, at school or reading a book.
  • Write down some short stories about what the children are saying or doing to send.
  • Have the parents make a video or voice recording reading the child’s favorite book or singing their favorite songs.

In summary, maintaining contact with parents affects your grandchild’s well-being. If you and anyone else involved feel it is in the best interest of the child to have visits, you can take some proactive steps to be sure the visits go well for your grandchild. For these visits to go well, it involves cooperation, flexibility and patience on your part and the child’s parent. Together you can help make visits more comfortable and less stressful for you all.  

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