Grandparent carers

As a grandparent, your family may see you as someone to turn to for advice and support. While you are coming to terms with your grandchild’s condition or disability you may have to help out the parents and other grandchildren. You may find it hard to know what level of help you should give and how much you should leave to the parents.

How you can help

There are many ways you can help the family. These include picking up their shopping and providing them with some respite by offering childcare. Simple things like these are often those most needed. You do not always need to provide direct help. Fundraising for a local support group may also benefit your grandchild and their parents.

One of the best things you can do is to be there as someone to talk to. If the parents need extra help let them tell you what they need. Remember, they may be struggling even though they seem to be coping. This is especially true at difficult times, such as at the time of diagnosis.

Take time to find out as much information as possible. Try to understand the effects of the child’s illness or disability. Be prepared to talk about it with the parents. They may not have been offered support from the NHS or local authority. You may be able to help out by getting in touch with these organisations and completing some of the administration that may need to be done before financial support can be given.

If you are considering leaving your children money in your will, you might want to consider whether it would benefit them more to give it to them or spend it on them now.

How involved should you be?

There is no easy answer to this question. Each condition and family situation requires a different level of involvement. Just being there is an important role in itself.

Although you should listen to the parents of your grandchild to understand their feelings and to be sensitive to their needs, you do not need to wait to be asked for help. It is important to make the parents aware that you are there if they need you. But you will need to accept that sometimes your advice will not be welcome and at other times the parents will just need to express their anger or frustration.

Caring for the ill or disabled child

Consistency is important when dealing with children, especially those with behavioural problems. Although you may not have the same parenting ideas as your son or daughter and their partner, it is important to respect their views. By talking sensitively with them it should be possible to reach an agreement about the best way to care for the child. Be sure to focus on the child and not their condition or disability.

Each family is different. How your family copes and how long it takes you to find the right direction may be different from other families.

Caring for the child’s siblings

One of the ways you can help most is to support any siblings of the disabled or ill child. Parents often need to spend more time with their disabled child, and siblings can feel left out or jealous. Grandparents can help by spending time with the other children and offering them activities and counselling that they might otherwise miss out on.

Full-time care

Grandparents sometimes assume full-time care of their grandchildren. This can be temporary or permanent, and can occur in distressing circumstances. Looking after children can be a physical and financial strain at any age, but particularly so if you are older. Advice and support on being the sole carer of a grandchild is available from grandparent organisations such as The Grandparents' Association or Grandparents Plus.

Watch the video below to find out more about caring for a child with a disability.