This weeks blog post was written by Martin Todd Deputy Chief Executive of Changing Futures North East, a Hartlepool based charity with a focus on supporting positive parental relationships. Martin is also part of the Healthy Relationships Partnership Team, working on delivery of the Parents as Partners programme, development of the Family Relationship Network and building relationships across agencies and sectors in Hartlepool.
Stress on the key relationships for children can come from a lot of different sources, one specific set of circumstances is when Grandparents may have become the primary carers/parents for their grandchildren. Often achieved through what is known as a Special Guardianship Order (SGO), grandparents may unexpectedly find themselves taking on a parenting role again; for a second generation in their family.
Whilst some families adapt to this change without the need for further support, many find the situation very challenging, managing a complex set of relationships, along with financial pressures and the already stressful experience that is parenting.
This situation can in turn be stressful and impact on the relationship between the Grandparents, leading to higher levels of conflict and poorer communication, which can then have a negative effect on their grandchild.
If you are a professional working with a family in this situation, being curious in a respectful way helps those families feel more understood and more likely to benefit from your support:
- Be curious about how the situation might have an impact of the relationship between the two grandparents.
- Encourage the grandparents to be curious towards each other, and not to assume how the other is experiencing the challenges they face. Understanding each other can form the basis of positive problem solving.
- If the situation is placing significant stress on the quality of their relationship, encourage the grandparents to seek relationship support either through self help resources or accessing services – in the same way you might encourage two parents experiencing conflict that impacts on their relationship.
- Remember, Grandparents and carers are likely to face the same barriers that prevent any other parent seeking help with their relationship – including feeling embarrassed, judged and nervous or unwilling to share how they are finding it difficult for fear of being judged a bad parent. It is important we try to understand and acknowledge these barriers, and provide as many options to allow them to make an informed decision about seeking help.
Further resources for grandparents can be found at: https://www.grandparentsplus.org.uk/advice-and-support