How to Respond to Non-Supporters
You know the truth is that sometimes people just don’t understand and they don’t know your situation. They’ve never experienced it, and sometimes this causes them to be more judgmental than they should. Or they are trying to speak authoritatively on a subject that they clearly just don’t know anything about, maybe they’ve heard or read about similar situations.
But they don’t know “this” situation, “your” situation. It’s irritating and maddening at best. I’ve had this happen a few times from well meaning family members and long-time friends. If you want to raise awareness and promote healthy support for grandparents who are living this experience it can be beneficial to engage them in a meaningful conversation.
Tackling pre-conceived Opinions
The first thing to consider is that there are many pre-conceived thoughts and opinions surrounding grandparents raising their grandchildren. To have a meaningful conversation with a questioner or non- supportive person, it’s important that you recognize the criticisms and misconceptions they may have.
You may also feel a certain responsibility for your own adult child’s shortcomings which can add an element of embarrassment or inadequacy on your part.
Parenting grandparents are judged because it may appear that they are not requiring their children to take responsibility for their posterity.
Recognizing misguided criticisms will aide in offering a well thought out answer which accurately captures the heart of grandparents who find themselves in this situation.
The First Criticism
The number one criticism is that they should not raise their grandchildren because it’s not their responsibility. Often, this comment comes from well meaning, but uninformed and somewhat naïve or idealistic, people.
“What about your life?”
“How will you vacation?”
“How can you work?”
“How can you Insert your passion here?”
Keep in mind that responsibility is not earned it’s taken, you can’t force someone to take responsibility.
We do not live in a perfect society with perfect people. On the contrary, we live in a world where everything does not go as planned, and sometimes there are situations that call for adjustments. Parenting your grandchildren is one of those situations.
The best way to answer this criticism is note that if you don’t raise the children, who will? The state? Foster parents? What kind of life would that be for the children? Isn’t it better for the children to be with people who are related to them, people who have a vested interest in their success, who love them unconditionally? Open up the conversation with the fact that all options were explored and this was the scenario that fit best.
The Second Criticism
The second most common criticism of grandparents’ in this situation is that they lack the ability to hold their own children responsible. To that I say, ‘how do you force responsibility on a grown man or woman?’ You cannot make someone do anything. Everyone has a choice. That’s what some people fail to recognize.
Grandparents who raise their grandchildren are simply responding to the present situations. There is a need, and the grandparents rise to the occasion. The children need to be raised. They need to be cared for, protected and loved.
Considering Other Factors
To the non-supporters, I’d like to say. ‘Have you ever considered that the parents of these children might not be fit to raise the children themselves?’
Statistics show that 1 in 5 parents suffer from mental, emotional, or physical trauma. Maybe the parents are addicts, or they are not mentally or financially unstable.
So, you must ask yourself the question, “Do you let the child suffer because of the attitude or situation of the parents, or do you step in and take care of your own flesh and blood.”
The Big Response to Non-supporters
I think that it is necessary to point out that, ultimately you are not trying to absolve your children of their responsibility. There just isn’t another place for the child to go.
Because of certain circumstances you have found yourself in a situation that is not ideal only because the natural progression of things is that the parents raise the child.
However, given that this is your situation, you love your grandchildren, and raising them gives you unexpected joy and satisfaction.
That’s the bottom line. You saw a great need, and it takes a great person to fill it. That’s how you answer non-supporters.
For me personally I really struggled with this situation recently, just this past year. I suppose after 7 years or so of seeing our family in this situation the “questioners” had expected it to change, go back to “normal” if you will. Honestly we all saw this as only a temporary situation originally, but it’s turned out to be fairly permanent. In the beginning that’s mainly what we said. “Oh well just until she’s out of jail, hospital, re-hab, gets a job etc“.
So I opened up to the “questioners” and made the statement that, “what we once thought would change, likely won’t and I’ve committed to love, guide and raise this child as long as there’s breath left in my body because it’s necessary.” Nana out.