Reasons Why Grandparents Raise Grandchildren

Grandparents Raising Children Due to Incarceration

About 1 in 50 children has a parent in jail or prison, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Parents might be in custody because of violent crimes or drug-related offenses, and some parents end up in prison multiple times. Grandparents might take custody of children when parents are sentenced. Some grandparents get custody of grandchildren because of domestic abuse or child abuse or neglect.

Death or Illness of the Parents

Grandparents might gain custody of their grandchildren because of tragic or unforeseen circumstances such as the illness or death of one or both parents, according to KidsHealth, a child development site. An ill parent might be unable to provide the daily care for her children, while a parent who survives the death of a spouse might be too overcome with grief to return to daily child-rearing responsibilities. In such circumstances, a child might be able to live with his parent again in the future.

Teenage Pregnancy

Nearly 5 million children lived in homes headed by a grandparent in 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In some cases, parents might find themselves becoming grandparents before their children are fully grown. Grandparents miught raise their grandchildren because of a teenage pregnancy, allowing their children time to finish school and get better jobs, according to KidsHealth. In those cases, teenage parents might eventually raise their children, while in other cases grandparents will raise grandchildren themselves.

Deployment or Unemployment

Grandchildren might pack up and move in with grandparents because of problems with the economy or because of a parent's involvement in the military, according to the American Association of Retired Persons. Grandparents might raise grandchildren during military deployments or because of a parent's long-term unemployment. Home foreclosures or moving across the country to find work might also prevent parents from caring for their children.

Rules for Grandparents Regarding Grandchildren

Improving Relations with your Parents or In-Laws

Each person has a viewpoint on how kids should be raised, which may mean butting heads with your child's grandparents. Remind grandparents that child-rearing practices have changed since they raised kids. Be firm and make it clear when you do or do not want advice on raising your children, according to Focus on the Family. Give clear advice on how you expect grandparents to treat your children, from how they should handle discipline to what kinds of treats the kids can enjoy and when.


While your parents or in-laws may dream of whisking the kids away for a fun-filled day with grandma and grandpa, you and your partner may have a different idea. Encourage grandparents to call in advance if they plan to visit or take the kids somewhere. Grandparents should accept your reasoning and avoid undermining you in front of your kids, according to Yale Medical Group. You can always explain your decision to grandma and grandpa later on.

Correcting a Grandparent's Mistake

Everyone makes mistakes, and being a grandparent is no different. If your child's grandparents overstepped or did not do what you asked of them, give everyone some space to calm down, according to KidsHealth. Arrange a calm time to discuss everything that happened. Your parents or in-laws may forget the rules you have set from time-to-time, so keep that in mind when you approach them about problems. If your parents served your little one pizza against your wishes, you might want to say, "I'm trying to make sure that Junior has a healthy diet. I'll pack a lunch for him when he visits you." Keeping a polite, non-confrontational stance can improve your relations with your child's grandparents.

Relationships with Grandchildren

Give your child plenty of time to bond with her grandparents, whether that involves going out for the day or getting help with homework. Since parents and grandparents may clash when it comes to views on religion or politics, you may want to encourage grandparents to let you answer any questions about those topics with your children. Grandparents should support your relationship with your child, including any rules that you make. If a grandparent is undermining your decisions, explain that it is causing confusion for your child and tension for you.

Creative Christmas Gifts for Grandparents

“Why I Love You” Video

Create a video diary of all the reasons why your children love their grandparents. Before creating the video, brainstorm segments that highlight past events and memories your children and their grandparents treasure. For example, take a video of your kids in the park reminiscing about an afternoon they spent together. If your kids and grandparents enjoy watching a particular movie together, encourage the kids to act out their favorite scene. If you have the proper equipment, consider editing in photos and family videos of the children and their grandparents together during special occasions, such as past Christmases or birthdays. Save a portion of the DVD near the end to allow each child to send their grandparents a special secret Christmas message.

Unusual Coupons

Many children give their parents or grandparents coupons for their birthday or Christmas that offer the promises of “Free Hugs.” Instead, help your kids create colorful coupons their grandparents will appreciate this holiday season. For example, if your kids are older, create coupons that promise to provide a variety of services, such as “Help Cleaning Up After Christmas Dinner” or “Help Grandpa Hang the Christmas Lights.” For younger children, help them create humorous coupons, such as “Help Grandma Bake Christmas Cookies Without Making a Mess” or “Give Grandma Extra Marshmallows in Hot Chocolate.” Present the coupon book to the grandparents before Christmas to allow them to reap the benefits of their grandkids' generosity throughout the holiday season.

A Personalized Christmas Party

Assist your kids with throwing an intimate, one-of-a-kind Christmas bash their grandparents will appreciate, and never forget. What makes this party special is that it will feature only food, games and decorations that the grandparents enjoy. For example, help the kids bake their grandparent's favorite Christmas cookies or treats. Prepare a special meal featuring the grandparent's favorite foods. Hang your grandparent's favorite Christmas decorations and during the party, play the grandparent's all-time favorite Christmas songs. Finish the evening by serving the grandparent's a cup of hot cocoa or cider while you enjoy their favorite holiday movie.

When Grandma and Grandpa Were Kids...

Help your kids purchase, bake or create a present that reminds their grandparents of Christmas when they were children. For example, was there a toy grandma or grandpa received when they were a kid? Help your children scour the internet or antique stores to find a train set grandpa remembers receiving when he was a child, or that doll grandma used to love when she was a little girl. Help your kids bake grandma's favorite Christmas-inspired dessert from when she was a child, or help the kids learn the lyrics to grandpa's favorite Christmas song and put on a performance after opening the presents.