Q: Hi. We are taking out a residence order in respect of our granddaughter. We [...]
When the grandchildren first arriveCreated by Verity in Age: At School, Age: Baby & Toddler, Age: Pre-school, Kinship Carers, No contact
Grandparents can become kinship carers overnight. We hope these tips might help make it a better transition for all the family.
‘The phone rang at midnight. We were fast asleep. It was a social worker saying they had got our grandchildren and were putting them into emergency care – but wanted to check if we could look after them – preferably permanently. Of course we took them in!’
It’s sometimes called the midnight call syndrome – when grandparents find they are thrown into a situation where they have to set up their homes for their grandchildren without a great deal of warning. Here are some tips to help you on this new journey.
How should I deal with the children?
If you have not been prepared for your grandchildren suddenly to come into your care there will be a host of things to deal with. There are the obvious practical issues, such as where does everyone sleep, how do we clothe the children, how do we stretch the budget, and what will everyone eat? There are emotional issues, too: a turmoil of feelings that you and the children will be coping with.
Are they in shock? Be prepared for the fact that the children will no doubt be in shock. They have gone through whatever trauma has brought them to you – and they are likely to be upset and scared. They might show their feelings by being quiet and withdrawn, angry and rude, or they might follow you around and cry, wanting attention and reassurance.
There may be times when you hear things that you wish you hadn’t. There will undoubtedly be times when you will have feelings that overwhelm you just as they do the children. These are normal grief reactions in a difficult situation and you or your grandchildren, or both, may need professional help in order to deal with them.
Love and reassurance
Your grandchildren will benefit most from knowing that you love them at this point and reassurance that they are safe and that you are not going to leave them. Hugs are important if they are willing to accept them and most importantly they will want to know what to expect from you. You need to let them know what you are doing to help make life better for them here and now.
Start by establishing some ground rules
Children like to know what’s expected of them. What they can do now they’re living at your house? For example – what time should they go to bed, what time should they get up? If they feel scared during the night let them know where you are and if it is okay to wake you up. Let them know about meal times and what there are for snacks – children that have been through a time of neglect are often malnourished. They might eat larger meals than you expect. They may be used to food being scarce and might take to hoarding food. Let them know that there is enough to go around – and encourage them to talk about their concerns and fears.
Talk with the children
You may have to rebuild trust if the children feel let down and betrayed. Older children may need to be encouraged to talk – one of the best ways to do that is to listen carefully to them. Nobody is perfect but, in the early days especially, however harassed or frustrated you feel, find other ways to let it out than around the children! If they have been in an abusive household they will not trust you if you yell or smack them and you’ll have lost important ‘ground’ with them that you’ll have to rebuild.
Normal mixed feelings
Don’t get cross with yourself if you feel confused. One minute you may have an overwhelming need to comfort and protect your grandchildren – and the next you may be longing for someone to just take them off your hands for a while. That’s normal.
It is a good idea for the children to have a check up with the doctor soon after they come into your care. Children who have been through times of neglect might not have had medical or dental checks for some time so make this a priority. This introduces them to their new doctor and it lets you know whether there are any problems you need to address. Find out if they have been immunised for instance.
Look after yourself
You may not be the type to ask for help – or ever to have thought of seeking counselling in your life. But you will find there are times when you really need an ear and some professional guidance to help you over some of the hurdles. Things that could help:
- Make an appointment with your local GP and let her/him know your situation and see what advice is on offer. Your GP can refer you to counseling services and some have counselors working in their practice.
- Get some regular exercise – walking is really beneficial – as is getting out in nature.
- Take time out for yourself – quiet time that is yours each day. Children can learn that you
- need times like this and they can be occupied doing something quietly as well. Listening to music, doing something creative or just having a short snooze can be very beneficial.
More information available:
Grandparents’ Association or call their helpline on 0845 4349585
There is also the leading charity supporting grandparents: Family Rights Group with their advice service available on 0808 801 0366
ChildLine is available at www.childline.org.uk or on freephone 0800 1111
A counselling service for children and young people is also available from Young Minds. Their helpline number is 0808 802 5544 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.