Grandparents as Parents – Primary Struggles

Grand Families LogoThis article was written by Cookie Oakley, LCSW. She is a family counselor and one of the co-founders of Grand Families. 

As we all know the number of grandparents raising grandchildren is at all-time high.  The primary reason is the epidemic of substance abuse of parents of these children.  All over the country State Child Protective Services and Juvenile Courts are overwhelmed with the large number of these cases.  In this blog I will address the primary struggles that grandparents face with this new and very challenging family dynamic.

As a family counselor, grandparents state the primary struggle is dealing with the adult parents of their grandchildren.  The struggle with establishing and keeping healthy boundaries with the biological parents is almost impossible. Grandparents love their adult child very much, and do not want to alienate them so they fall prey to their manipulation.  The addiction or substance abuse has taken control of their life therefore the reason for losing custody of their children.  When addiction or substance has taken control of anyone, they make poor decisions, and can certainly not make responsible decisions related to being a parent.  Grandparents as parents often are still influenced by their adult child and struggle with telling them no as related to their involvement with seeing their children and/or wanting to participate in the parenting process.  In the February Blog I wrote about healthy boundaries with the parents who are substance abusers.  Please review this article if you are struggling with this issue.

The other primary struggle is getting the grandchildren to respect the grandparents as parents.  Previously they have known their grandparents in the ‘grandparent role’.  The normal grandparent role is spending playful or quality time with grandchildren.  Grandchildren have not viewed grandparents as the disciplinarian.  Therein is a huge problem.  They often do not listen to rules required for parental disciplining.  The grandchildren will often challenge their authority as parents.  This is a tremendous problem because the children are not learning normal childhood discipline and parental guidance.  Family counseling is recommended for grandparents and grandchildren together.  A family counselor can give you a plan of action and coach grandchildren how to change behavior and cooperate with grandparents.

There are many other significant struggles and challenges for grandparents as Pparents.  The everyday emotional struggles caused by the adult child/biological parent’s dysfunctional and often dangerous situation, and the grandchildren’s emotional struggle to understand and cope with their absent parents.  I suggest learning all you can as grandparents/parents how to best manage your situation and family dynamics in order to give your grandchildren an appropriate childhood.  These skills may be best learned in family counseling.  Your community has many resources for this counseling.  Any challenging situation can be best managed with the best possible tools, and learning the correct emotional, parenting, and family management approach reduces significant stress and allows families to enjoy life and reduce the emotional stress.  ­­­­­­

Prescription Painkillers Linked to Rising Death Rate Among Younger White Women

taking medicineA new study finds prescription painkillers are largely to blame for an increase in the death rate among white women ages 15 to 54 in the United States over the past 15 years, The Washington Post reports.

The Urban Institute study found 15.9 per 100,000 white women died from opioid-related complications in 2011, up from 3.3 per 100,000 in 1999.

Between 1992 and 2006, death rates for women increased in 42.8 percent of U.S. counties. Death rates for men increased in only 3.4 percent of counties during the same period. Between 1999 and 2011, death rates climbed significantly only among white women ages 15 to 54. Half of the increase was due to drug overdoses, according to the study.

“A lot of theories out there suggest stress has major effects on our health,” said co-author Nan Astone, a senior research fellow at the Urban Institute’s Labor, Human Services and Population Center. “We know that white women are single parents more often than they ever have been before. They’re more often the breadwinner. They’re juggling a lot of roles.”

The study found death rates from accidental poisoning for non-Hispanic black women also increased between 1999 and 2011, from 4.8 to 7.4 per 100,000 per year. “This increase, however, was not nearly as much as it was for white women,” the researchers wrote. “In fact, the death rates from accidental poisoning are now much lower for blacks (7.4) than for whites (15.9).”

Diseases associated with smoking and obesity also contributed to higher death rates among white women, the study found.

Text from Join Together Partnership for Drug-Free Kids article. 

Healthy Boundaries

Grand Families LogoThis article was written by Cookie Oakley, LCSW. She is a family counselor and one of the co-founders of Grand Families. 

As a counselor I have worked with many grandparents that are raising their grandchildren.  There are many challenges for grandparents becoming parents to their grandchildren. One of the most challenging problems is enforcing healthy boundaries with their adult children and parents of the grandchildren.  Substance abuse is the most common reason grandparents have custody of their grandchildren.  Parents who have lost custody of their children have not become responsible adults.  Therefore, they have irresponsible behaviors and are not a healthy influence for their children.   In fact, they often continue to cause additional problems for the grandparents that are trying to provide for their grandchildren.

The grandparents who are parenting their children’s children must provide healthy parenting so these children can grow up learning healthy life skills in order to function well in school and social life.  The issue of when and where parents can visit their children is most often decided by Child Protective Services or Juvenile Court.  Child Protective Services must have Juvenile Court approve all custody arrangements for children who are removed from their parents.  Often these visitations are “supervised.”  Depending on the severity of the neglect or abuse, the court determines where and how often visitation can occur.  Many grandparents struggle with enforcing these visitation arrangements.  The primary reason for the struggle is because of their emotional attachment to their adult child and “give in” to the parent or grandchildren wishes of bending the rules for visitation.  What most grandparents don’t realize is that Child Protective Services can remove the children from the grandparents’ custody if the visitation rules are broken.

What are healthy boundaries?   All family dynamics are totally different, therefore the grandparents must only allow responsible parents to visit their children.  Irresponsible parents can make false promises to the children causing more emotional harm in addition to what has already occurred.  Irresponsible parents can influence the children which can encourage defiant and other difficult behaviors by the children.  The grandparents then have additional struggles trying to parent an unruly, defiant, or difficult child.  The grandparents’ primary responsibility is to protect and provide for the children, and teach the children healthy and appropriate behaviors.

The most common emotional distress for the children is feeling rejected and missing their parents. They mostly do not understand their parents’ irresponsible adult behaviors that has required this change in living arrangements.  These emotional struggles for the children make it more difficult for the grandparents to teach and enforce the required rules they must learn, and manage the situation.  My recommendations for the grandparents are to enforce strict boundaries with the adult parents.  The parents must follow certain guidelines and respect the boundaries set by the grandparents.  Juvenile Court or a community facility that host supervised visitation monitor the parents’ behavior, and if the parents are acting inappropriately, the visitation is terminated.  This is a clear message to anyone who has temporary custody of children that they must enforce the same guidelines and boundaries.

When I counsel with children, I explain on their age-appropriate level how and why the change has occurred, and that their parents are struggling with becoming responsible adults.  Children adjust much better when they are given enough explanation to prevent worrying or feeling rejected.  They often do not understand the substance abuse life style, unless they are teenagers and have been exposed to this lifestyle.  Even then they do not want to believe the actual facts.

The purpose of healthy boundaries is to allow only responsible adults to have visitation with their children.  If they are continuing to live the substance abuse life style and have chosen not to put their life back together as responsible parents, they should not be allowed to visit the children.  The primary reason is the parent will continue the irresponsible and unhealthy interaction with the children and this irresponsible behavior causes emotional harm to the child.  Neither should the irresponsible parent be allowed to instruct the grandparent on how to parent their child in any manner.  The grandparents must eliminate all contact with the irresponsible parent if necessary.  Terminating visitation may seem harsh but it is simply tough love.  They must come to realize how their behavior is harmful to their children.  I counsel with so many grandparent families that are struggling with this situation.  The adult child will often try to manipulate the grandparent because manipulation has become a way of life for them, especially if they are substance abusers.

Grandparents who are raising grandchildren absolutely must create a positive, healthy, low-stress living environment because it is the best for all involved.  Children feel more loved and safe in a low-stress home.  Grandparents are often overwhelmed with the parenting responsibilities so they have no time or energy for additional stress.  And the children are much easier to manage without the irresponsible parents confusing them.

Enjoy your grandchildren by creating a low-stress and happy living environment.

Top 10 Articles of January 2015

Each week, Join Together News Service from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids send out articles on different topics involving substance use. These articles range from things such as drug overdose rates to new FDA trials. For the staff at MDC, these articles keep us in the loop about what is going on in the nation around substance issues.

The following articles are the Top 10 most-read Join Together articles of January 2015. Please take the time to read or share these articles with your colleagues and community. The more that people know about these issues will result in that much more light being shed on the issues we have at hand!

1) New Device, “E-Joint,” Brings Together Marijuana and E-Cigarette
2) E-Cigarette Vapor Can Contain High Concentrations of Formaldehyde: Study
3) DEA Bans Three New Strains of Synthetic Marijuana
4) Drug Overdose Deaths May Peak in 2017: Study
5) Federal Judge to Rule on Whether Marijuana is Schedule I Drug
6) Heroin Overdose Deaths Rose 39 Percent in 2013: Report
7) “Synthetic Marijuana” – Nothing Like Real Marijuana, Expert Explains
8) Commentary: Federal Preemption of State Laws Regarding Medical Marijuana
9) FDA Approves Non-Opioid Painkiller Injection
10) Six Americans Die From Alcohol Poisoning Daily: CDC Report

Don’t Be Pitiful When You Can Be Powerful!

Grand Families LogoThank you to Donna Henson with Grand Families for this week’s guest blog. We appreciate you sharing your journey and thank you for all the wonderful things you are doing! 

Happy New Year to everyone! We had a wonderful Holiday! However, after several days of cooking, spending, hurrying and most of all being home with the kids, my husband and I were sounding very pitiful. Early one morning, before anyone was awake, I read this quote on Facebook. It hit me right between the eyes and I began to think about the power we have as Grandparents who are raising our Grandchildren.

“We have the power to change lives! We have the power to teach a new generation to make better choices than their parents did. We have the power to help children go out into the world without addiction. And, most of all, we have the power to prove to these kids that someone does love them and want them. But, it isn’t easy. It takes empathy, commitment, energy, and love.”

Grand Families wants to make 2015 the year of the “Mighty Grands” by offering tools of effective parenting for grandchildren. Every month, our blog will be on a topic that will help with the challenges we Mighty Grands face. In February, my co-founder, Cookie Oakley (the counselor who saves our sanityJ), will write about “Dealing with Birth Parents.” Some of the topics that will follow throughout the year are “Behavioral Challenges of Grandchildren”, “Effective Parenting in Today’s World” and “Internet Safety and Social Media”.

And now for the most exciting news!

Our first meeting will be March 1st, from 3:00-5:00 pm!
The Coop Cafe, 3701 Sutherland Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37919
Due to limited space, there will be no child care available. 
 

Please come and meet other Grands and share with us some of the needs of the Grand Community.

Spread the word to anyone who is raising grandchildren or children of extended family members!

Thank you for being Grand Families.

10 Tips to Help Your Loved One Seek Treatment for a Substance Use Problem

**Blog text came from JT Daily News** 

When an individual is in the throes of struggling with substance problems, chaos becomes a regular part of life for both the individual (also known clinically as the identified patient, or “IP”), and his or her family. As mental health clinicians, we spend a great deal of time working with desperate family members in their journey to help the IP to enter treatment. The families we work with experience a confluence of emotions including sadness, guilt, hopelessness, anger, frustration, and fear. When we first meet with these families it is clear that they have exhausted many of their coping mechanisms and resources to influence the IP in the direction of change. At this point, pleading, threatening, arguing, confronting and avoiding have all been tried with limited success. Unfortunately, and in addition, family members can be struggling with their own mental health issues including anxiety, depression, substance use issues, and trauma in part due to and/or exacerbated by the stress.

Feeling alone, stigmatized, and devastated, families are left with many questions. “How did my loved one get to be like this?” “What could I have done differently?” “Why does he/she continue to hurt themselves and us so recklessly?” “Am I an enabler? “Should I just cut the person off or administer tough love?” “What is their rock bottom?” While many families are convinced that the IP “doesn’t want to change,” we regularly point out that although a part of them might desire change, they may not feel they have the skills to do so currently.

In spite of such tragedy, we feel incredibly lucky and privileged as clinicians to work with these inspiring and resilient families because individuals and families can and do change! While good outcomes are attainable over time, it is imperative for families and the IP to recognize that the management of substance use disorders is a process like any other chronic medical condition (e.g., diabetes, hypertension and obesity).

Regrettably, there is an abundance of misinformation available to the general public regarding the treatment of substance use disorders. Reality television shows often portray dramatic and provocative “interventions” that claim to result in radical change. Unfortunately, these types of approaches rarely work and can serve to alienate and shame the individual, often leaving him or her with lower self-esteem, self-hatred and hopelessness. To make matters even more complicated, the person being confronted is often under the influence of a substance leaving them very fragile, impaired, disinhibited, defensive, and demonstrating poor judgment with an inability to comprehend the nature of the intervention.

In this post, we provide 10 tips that may increase the likelihood of getting your loved one to engage in treatment (or change of any sort!) while keeping you as healthy as possible.

1. Your own self-care is essential.

2. Establish your own personal limits.

3. Avoid terms that carry stigma such as “addict,” “enabler” and “co-dependent.”

4. Learn to communicate in a nonjudgmental way. Explain to the IP that this struggle is different for everyone, and that there are any number of paths to change that could be helpful.

5. Recognize strengths of the IP. Validate their experience. Acknowledge that their substance use behaviors do not define who they are as a person.

6. Make a commitment to addressing your own issues (seeking your own treatment) with the IP. Own your piece of the struggle.

7. Empathize with the dilemma of ambivalence that the IP faces.

8. Respond effectively to this ambivalence and subsequent reluctance to change from the IP. Understand their point of view. Stay away from threats. Invitation works better.

9. Seek outside consultation from a clinician you trust. Learning how to communicate with the IP in the most optimal way takes time. Learn to control the way you deliver a message.

10. Suggest the first visit to a mental health provider be simply “an initial consult to find out what treatment options exist.” The focus of the consult could be managing stress and anxiety and not necessarily addiction per se.

Dr. Michael Ascher serves as a clinical associate in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and is in private practice. He is coeditor of “The Behavioral Addictions” (Washington: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2015). Dr. Jeff Foote is a cofounder and director of the Center for Motivation and Change and a coauthor of “Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change”(New York: Scribner, 2014).

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

Susannah’s House Offers FREE Program

Susannah’s House recently contacted us about a new FREE program they are offering to mothers. Please see below on the information about the program offered. If you have any questions at all, the contact information for Sarah Jones with Susannah’s House is at the end of the blog! We are proud to watch this great organization grow and help mothers in need!

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Susannah’s House is a loving, non-judgmental place where mothers can find hope and healing from addictive issues and life’s hurts, habits, and hang-ups!  Childcare is lovingly provided while mothers are in the day treatment program.

Who Can Come?

  • Pregnant mothers who are struggling with addictive issues.
  • Mothers in ongoing recovery from substance abuse and have completed an alcohol and drug assessment and have followed its recommendations
  • Mothers that have children with the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) due to family substance abuse
  • Mothers that have had children under the jurisdiction of the court system due to parental substance abuse

Basic Recovery Program occurs on M, W, F from 10 am-2pm, and lunch is served at no cost.

Susannah’s House is located at 923 Dameron Avenue (about 2 minutes from the Knoxville DCS Office) and is designed to be a safe haven for the entire family to heal and grow. The facility is designed for classroom programs for adults; art, movement and music therapy for children and counseling areas for recovery and life skills. We have a FABULOUS facility, with a fenced in playground/pavilion/basketball court…feel free to come by and check it out!!

We want to help mothers:

-Understand how their past does not have to be their future

-find support from other women with similar circumstances

-get help with GED or job training (we have an awesome computer lab to help with this)

-find a path to freedom for addiction through day treatment

-understand and find help with legal problems involved with family issues

We have immediate openings at this time, but will be limiting our groups to 10 participants. Once a waiting list has been activated, we will look at adding more class times and services.  We have been receiving several new referrals, and can schedule intakes for anyone interested immediately.

Please feel free to share this contact information with anyone you come in contact with that may want/need more information about our program! For additional information anyone can call Susannah’s House at 865-200-4759 or email Sarah Jones at gro.e1427779230suohs1427779230hanna1427779230sus@s1427779230enojs1427779230

Survive the Holidays

This time of year, with all the holiday parties and festive occasions, many party goers will be drinking. Over the next few days, the roads will be filled with many drivers; some who may be under the influence.  If you are planning on drinking at any holiday parties, designate a driver. Even after one drink, you are still impaired to drive. If you end up at a holiday event and end up drinking, call a friend or a cab. Here is a link to all of the different cab services in Knoxville. 

Area drivers, please follow these tips to keep the holidays safe and happy:

  • Even one drink can impair your judgment and increase the risk of getting arrested for driving drunk—or worse, the risk of having a crash.
  • If you will be drinking, do not plan on driving.  Plan ahead; designate a sober driver before the party begins.
  • If you have been drinking, do not drive. Call a taxi, phone a sober friend or family member, or just stay put.

Remember, it is never safe to drink and drive: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over. Please keep Knoxville, yourself and other drivers safe this holiday season. 

Make the right choices! 

Grand Families: Behind Closed Doors

Thank you to Donna Henson with Grand Families for this week’s guest blog. We appreciate you sharing your journey and thank you for all the wonderful things you are doing! 

Donna HensonMy name is Donna Henson. In June of 2010, I received the news that my daughter, Christy, and her boyfriend had been arrested on drug charges and were in jail in Portland, Oregon. My two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Danni, had been taken by the police to a nearby hospital. There she tested positive for high levels of Meth. She was a sick little girl. Due to the fact that her paternal grandmother, in Portland, wanted nothing to do with her and that we lived in Tennessee, she was placed in Foster Care.

That July, on our family vacation, I walked the beach and cried. I cried to my daughter, Angela, saying “I just can’t do this! I cannot go through this again. I raised her mother and I can’t do it again!”

It is impossible to describe all of the emotions, fears and prayers that were going on in our home. My husband, Dick, and I had been empty nesters for a few years. We traveled, ran our business and thought we would continue that way until retirement. However, on November 7, 2010, Christy passed away. She had an infection that led to a brain hemorrhage. This was the direct result of drug use. She died alone in a Portland hospital.

Because we lived in a different state, Dick and I had to become certified Foster Parents. During the next year, we attended Path classes, made six trips to Portland, completed voluminous forms and fell in love with a very special little girl. Danni moved into our home on October 8, 2011. Our adoption was finalized on December 31, 2013 and Danni officially became Dannielle Marie Henson.

We can never repay the wonderful Foster Care family that gave Danni unconditional love and guidance. They are still on our list of best friends. The help and advice we received from our DCS Worker and our ICP Worker was invaluable. And, of course, the Path Classes! Having raised six children, Dick and I were not only resistant to taking the classes but, also resentful. We are now so grateful for all that we learned.

Danni’s brother came to live with us two years ago. So, we are now raising two children, seven and fifteen. These children have special needs that we never had to deal with before. This brings me to our counselor. It was a requirement of the State of Oregon that Danni continue to have on going counseling during our period of temporary guardianship. On the advice of our ICP worker we were led to Cookie Oakley. She works with all of us. One day, I mentioned to Cookie that I didn’t know how grandparents survive without the training and assistance we received. I told her Dick and I would like to do something to help these people. She had beaten me to the thought a year earlier. So, she said “let’s do it!”

Grand Families is the result. We hope to offer support and training to as many kinship families as possible. It is a way for Dick and I to give back and try to make life a little easier for folks living with difficult situations. There are times when I think I can’t go on another minute. The next minute, I receive an unexpected hug from a teenager or a beautiful drawing from a seven-year-old.

If you are raising a child of extended family members, you are a Grand Family. Thank you for being there for them. We hope you will join us as we work together to break the link of substance abuse and send healthy, successful children out into the world.

 

How are you giving back on #GivingTuesday?

20140611235952-giving-tuesday-logoToday is #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving and giving back. Here are five ways your gift to the Metropolitan Drug Commission.

1. Share your #UNselfie on how you give back to your community, big or small.

2. Parents, find free, effective resources and tools, 24/7, to help deal with teen substance abuse on our website at www.metrodrug.org.

3. Make a gift at our website to help us with our different programs we facilitate, such as SADD Chapters, Active Parenting and Grand Families, to name a few.

4. Do something kind for another person in the spirit of MDC.

5. Reach out to someone who needs to get on the path of recovery. Call us at 865-588-5550 to get more information on treatment or call the Tennessee Redline at 1-800-889-9789.

We appreciate the difference you make in Knoxville! Your gifts today and throughout the year are helping the community you love. Give today, and thank you for your support.