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Grandparents' rights-parenting grandchildren can be tricky

Taking care of children is challenging and, at the same time, fulfilling, here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That may be the reason why the number of grandparents who look after their grandchildren is increasing. There are also other reasons why this shift is happening. Divorce, unplanned pregnancy and early parenthood, imprisonment and substance abuse are some of the common reasons why parents cannot take care of their children, which, in turn, can make the grandparents amenable to taking on parenting responsibilities.

The sad thing is that although a grandparent has biological ties to the grandchild, the custody and parenting of that child is really the responsibility of the parents. The problem with this arrangement is that, although a grandparent may have the means and the capability of raising the child, the unfit parents can take that child away from the grandparent at any time.

Custody for grandparents can be a sticky situation because it involves the child and the child's parent. Crossed emotions can cause stress and mar both relationships. Once the court awards the custody to a grandparent, he or she is legally the primary parent of the granchild. This can be tough because physical limitations and discipline methods may be different. These concerns can be resolved by consulting other people, including support groups, therapists or a school counselor.

The grandparent can also take parenting classes. Even at an old age, it is not too late to learn what the best parenting approach is to use. The Internet, books, videos and actual classroom discussions can help.

Finally, in a situation where a divorced parent is the primary legal parent, it is advisable to remember that that parent has the upper hand with respect to the legal right to care for the child. In all cases, the role of the grandparent is to do what is best for his or her grandchild.

Source: Asheville's Homepage Citizen-Times, "Woodard: When grandparents parent," Trip Woodard, Oct. 8, 2013

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