Due to a number of factors, the job of raising children is increasingly being passed onto grandparents. Reasons like long working hours, distant commutes across multiple locations, becoming a parent at a young age, incarceration, and death of a parent are making it difficult for parents to devote enough time to their children. Then there are those children whose parents suffer from substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental illnesses and are undergoing recovery. All these reasons contribute to grandparents actively taking up the responsibility of looking after their grandchildren.
This is what is going on in hundreds of households in Douglas County, Colorado. The grandparents have no problem in raising their grandchildren. However, this has led to the emergence of a new problem – mental health disorders. It has been noted that while a grandparent makes the transition from the grandparent to becoming a parent again, they face challenging situations which may make them susceptible to developing mental health problems.
Take the example of Victor Lang, a local resident. He is currently helping his daughter, who is in recovery for heroin addiction, raise her two children, an 8-year-old boy and a 6-year-old daughter. While his wife (the children’s grandmother) is at work during the day, he takes care of them. Speaking to a local reporter covering the story, Lang said that he loves both the kids a lot and would do anything for them. However, the journey from being a grandfather to becoming a father again has been an emotional and stressful rollercoaster.
But it was also different this time. Local support groups in and around the county helped him handle the children’s healthcare and education costs. And the best part was that all the services were free of cost. Recalling his younger days, Lang said he wished such services were present during his time too.
Taking care of grandchildren can cause depression
Oftentimes, grandparents report getting stressed out because of the financial stress and inaccessibility to support services. A majority of these grandparents are nearing retirement or are already retired and are thus, living on limited incomes. In such a scenario, when a grandchild enters the household, the cost of living escalates, especially if the grandchild has special needs.
Grandparents taking care of grandchildren have to choose between their families and jobs. Sometimes, the retired ones have to return to work to make the ends meet. On the other hand, some of them working outside home have to quit their jobs because the cost of child care is too high. Such shifts can cause stress leading to depression.
A positive development in such a scenario is the establishment and availability of free programs exclusively for grandparents dealing with mental health disorders. A mental health worker from one such program center said that it becomes disturbing and demanding for a grandparent to raise a child and go through the process of parenthood again. He shared a story of a woman in her late 50s who was raising her grandson single-handedly. While anger fits in children are common, it reminded her of her abusive husband and the trauma she had to suffer when she was in the relationship. However, timely counseling and guidance helped her overcome the trauma and also helped her deal with the anger fits in her grandson.
Special help for grandparents
The golden years of life sometimes become quite lonely. Lang urges grandparents to use this as an opportunity to connect with their grandchildren and children. Nothing sounds more melodious than the laughter of children, he said. Lang also advised older people to seek help for any mental health problem they are facing; adding that there is nothing to be embarrassed of.
If you or your loved one is experiencing any symptoms of an underlying mental disorder, you can seek help from the Colorado Mental Health Help. You can call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-899-5063 to speak to our experts who can guide you with information on a wide range of mental health treatment centers in Colorado offering evidence-based treatment programs customized to suit the patient’s requirements. You can also chat online with our representative to seek advice on the best residential mental health treatment centers in Colorado.