Although I’m technically not a grandmother, I have personally witnessed the unconditional love of a grandparent for a grandchild, and vice versa. I believe it can be one of life’s greatest joys.

But what if grandparenting isn’t exactly joyful?  I know several people who, due to unforeseen circumstances, have had no choice but to take over and raise their grandchildren. Situations can range from substance abuse to mental illness to neglect to incarceration to the death of the biological parent(s). Grandparents sometimes have to make the difficult decision to step up and take care of their grandchildren in order to avoid having the kids placed in foster care. Not easy, that’s for sure.

If you are this situation or you know of someone who has taken over the custody and care of grandchildren, please be aware that this is not unique. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, substance abuse is a factor in as many as two-thirds of all child abuse/neglect cases. As a parent of an adult child who has a substance abuse problem, and as a grandparent of that adult child’s offspring, your challenges can cause immense emotional conflict. How do you give tough love to your substance-abusing daughter while, at the same time, nurturing her little ones?

There is help available. A particularly terrific resource is Look for the section on Parenting and Family, and then scroll down until you find Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. Another suggestion is to log onto and then look for the Grand Families Guide, where you will find information on a wide spectrum of topics from behavior to finance.

Are you beginning to feel less alone?

And while you’re searching for online assistance about your grandchildren, please don’t give up on their parents. There are mental health professionals in every community dedicated to helping those who are struggling with substance abuse and mental illness. I will be happy to refer you to several well-qualified experts, or you can check out to find a therapist nearby.

At the risk of further overwhelming you, I’m going to suggest something else that’s equally important.  Please be sure to allow some time to take care of yourself. Whether self-care means a monthly massage, or a day off, or a housekeeper, I urge you to take a few moments to think about what you can do for yourself in order to be a happier, healthier caregiver to those innocent grandchildren. Obviously, they did not ask for their care to be transferred to you nor did you expect to be in charge. Nevertheless, this is both their new normal and yours. Suffering through it is the wrong answer. The right answer is to gather your resources while, at the same time, to take care of yourself.

If you need a quick session with a family mediator in order to establish some ground rules for your new family, please reach out. It would be an honor for me to be able to help.