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Relationships - September 2017

Living with Grandma


Maggi Stamp is a highly qualified relationship counsellor and trainer who writes each month about emotional and practical concerns and challenges that many of us meet in later life. For 20 years, as well as running a private practise, Maggi worked with the organisation Relate to help married and single people, cohabiting couples, same sex couples, families, young and old people and the bereaved to develop, foster and enjoy healthy and fulfilling relationships. No less important, as she is herself a wife, mother and grandmother, she brings a lifetime of varied and eventful experience to enhance her empathy and understanding.  

Many of her examples are based on concerns that clients, family and friends have presented over the years. In the monthly articles where she responds to issues raised by readers, she strictly respects confidentiality and never identifies those who write to her. But the individual worries they raise are invariably felt by others, so her responses can help many.

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com 
for her to respond in the column.



Living with Grandma

Maggi, my grandson, aged 15, spends a lot of time at my house and says he prefers it to being at home. He says he'd like to come and live with me permanently. He has told his mother - my daughter, and her partner and they have laughed it off as not really serious, but I think he is. 

I live alone and get along with him very well, but I'm not sure it is right to allow him to come and live here on a permanent basis. He does have friends but tends to do his homework before he goes out to see them and sometimes just stays here all evening.
 
I don't think my daughter minds him being here so much as it gives her more time with her young baby, but I don't know about full time.
I'd hate her to think I'm encouraging him to live here.
What should I do?


Your grandson sounds like a steady and studious boy. Both you and your daughter must be proud of him. I wonder if he has talked to you about why he prefers being with you to being at his mother's home. Does he get on ok with her partner or might there be a bit of friction there? Does he feel is would be easier for his mum to manage the young baby if he were not around? Or is he feeling a little excluded since the baby's arrival? Between you, your grandson and his mother you need to work out what will be best for him. Think about practical things; if getting to school will be easier or harder, whether he would be more cut off from his group of friends, if you feel fit and strong enough to deal with the work a teenager can generate for a carer, and if he'd find it easier to both study and relax if he was living with you.

This situation is not an unusual one, children going to stay at, or live with, a relative has been a way to share the responsibility of care of a child for centuries, especially if a new sibling arrives when the young person is in their teens.  What is unusual though is the child choosing to go to a relative.  What you all need to be sure of is that the boy will benefit from being with you, that he isn't harbouring some kind of un-spoken distress, and that his mother is happy about this arrangement. From the way you have written it seems that you would have no problem with him being with you. 

Be aware that there are laws which cover this question and your grandson cannot choose who to live with until he is sixteen. Until then it is the duty of the Primary Care Giver, in his case his mum, to decide and to care for him.

When he is with you be ready to talk and to listen whenever he seems to want to talk - and try to encourage this before any decision is taken.
The relationship between and grandparent and their grandchildren is often a close one of shared affection built on an easier base than a parental one. Parents have the direct responsibility while probably caring for other children, having a career and trying to keep the home on an even keel. Grandparents have been through and past all those way-points and are often less stressed, more easy going with their grandchildren, and often have the luxury of spending longer periods of time relaxing with them.

Being a grandparent is a great joy but it is not devoid of responsibility. We too, are part of the central family that guides and shapes the young. An honour yes, but it still needs dedication. You have obviously won the trust and affection of this grandson and might find that he needs to rely upon you for something he feels is missing at home. Though I'm sure you feel ready to take on this responsibility, be aware that it can feel too large at times, so you need to care for your own health as well, in order to be strong and steady for him. Talk to his mum, check the legal implications with a solicitor, or Citizen's Advice Bureau, and between you ask him to wait until he is sixteen, which will be soon, and then decide. It might seem like a long time for a young person but we know that it is a very short time to wait. In that time he might have other thoughts...or will be surer of where he wants to be.



You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


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