Monday, October 11, 2010

Step Grandparents

There are a few different scenarios that might place you in the role of being a step grandparent. For the stepparent the expectations of how they prefer their stepchildren be integrated into the family could vary. To date there is little research on the expectations of step grandparents. The primary goal of stepfamilies is to build a bridge to unify two separate entities into one, while not building a wall that blocks the old family unit or unit(s) from being a part of the new family. As the step grandparent you may struggle with managing old loyalties while trying to build new loyalties.
Typically after divorce and remarriage a child will look to his or her Grandparents for support and a sense of normalcy among the many changes they are facing. Children that are not forced to relocate have an easier chance at maintaining those close bonds with Grandparents. Step grandchildren may be forced to relocate and may have limited access to their new step grandparent and biological grandparent. This factor can create difficulty in trying to establish a bond with the child.
Some Grandparents provide a lot of emotional, financial and even childcare responsibilities for their children’s children while the initial marriage is ending. This can cause caretaker fatigue, which can result in Grandparents being emotionally exhausted and “taking a break” while the stepfamily is bonding. This intergenerational dependency is not a new phenomenon, although is becoming more and more common as the divorce rate increases. The step grandchild is not usually around for the marriage dissolution, thus the child could experience some confusion as to why the step grandparent is not a part of their everyday life.
Step grandparents have often been blessed with the honor of being a part of their biological grandchildren’s births and subsequent major milestones. However, with step grandchildren, depending on their age, a lot of milestones have already happened. This can pose a difficult dilemma for the Grandparent who has adored their biological grandchild since birth and is now trying to bond with a step grandchild that they know very little about.
If you or a loved one has recently found themselves in the position of being a step grandparent, be assured you are not alone in your struggle to adjust to your new family dynamics. Redefining relationships can be a difficult task, although is not a hopeless situation. If you are interested in getting more information on this topic, please contact our office at 386-736-9165.

Jennifer Nadelkov, MA, LMFT

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Jen!

    I had some great step grandparents, although we both went through so of the stuff you wrote about.

    When I was eleven-years-old, a man who did not know us very well, said to me and my step grandfather, "You both sure do look alike!"

    There was a tense silence until I replied, "That's because we drink the same beer!"

    My grandfather I laughed about that and really bonded from that point forward.