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Supervised Access For Grandparents

The structures of families are changing. As the structures change, the role of grandparents is altered significantly. In 2001, 56,7000 children lived with their grandparents (www.stats.canada.ca). Along with these changes we see more parents living with grandparents in addition to grandparents taking on more responsibility for the family financially and emotionally. In 2001 of the survey conducted, half shared their homes with their adult children and their grandchildren. In today’s economy more parents work outside the home, as a result we see the role of the grandparents shift to that of full time caregiver. Today’s grandparents often embrace these adjustments with different lifestyle decisions to meet this trend and are commonly referred to as “grandboomers.” (www.parentmap.com)

If you should speak to a grandparent and asked them about their grandchildren you would often hear the best tales of how special their grandchildren are and how great he or she will be. You will for sure hear tales on end of the latest things they have done, or the activities they shared together, expressed with glee and a sense of pride.

The number of children living with grandparents without their parents is considerably high. The Children’s Aid Society often assigns grandparents the role of the custodial parent by way of a court order or through family court. This occurs when there is a break down in the family home.

The decision to care for grandchildren whether temporarily or permanently by grandparents can often bring about struggles as well as a lot of unforeseen benefits. The relationship seen between a grandparent and grandchildren is often positive for both. Children often see their grandparents as nurturing and comforting.

When a grandparent is the custodial parent the relationship with the parents can sometimes be stressful. Grandparents are faced with the conflict and stress of managing a relationship with their adult children while maintaining their relationship with their grandchildren. It becomes more challenging if the relationship with their adult child, the parent, has historically had issues of challenges and conflict.   Grandparents have to manage the stress of ensuring that the parent, their own child, abide by the custody order issued. They also need to communicate with the parent when issues arise around their access, and their parenting style, which can be difficult.

When the courts make this type of arrangement for supervised access, it is important that the grandparent maintain an open and trusting relationship with their grandchildren. It is also important they seek support around the issues that are stressful. When there is a communication breakdown it is recommended they seek mediation or contact their nearest family law office for additional services and support.

It is important that if a supervised access is approved as part of the custody order grandparents seek the services of a neutral party to assist in the relationship between the parents and child. The building of this relationship is important in the healthy development of the child and for all involved. Contact a local supervised access centre to arrange supervised visits.

When supervised access is arranged, it is important that grandparents as the recognized custodial parent continue to maintain a supportive relationship with their grandchildren. At the access centre they provide information and resources to help children, caregivers and parents.

To help prepare grandchildren for their visits grandparents should speak to them about the access centre, the time and location of visits, who will be there and assure the child that at the end of the visit someone will be there for them. Grandparents can also help grandchildren through the process by speaking positively about the visits and listening to the child’s concerns. If the child is feeling fear reassure them of the safety and speak to the staff about the child’s concerns. It is important to always be open to listen about their concerns surrounding visits. Support can involve helping them prepare by packing their favorite games or other activities that they would enjoy do during visits. After the visit, continue to be supportive to the child, and listen to their experiences, concerns and questions. If the child is not open to speak about the visits don’t push, be patient and continue to be supportive.

Most supervised access centres are aware there can be anxiety and difficulty surrounding visits. Access centres will often conduct an orientation process where the child gets familiar with the centre and the staff to better prepare them for their first visit.

It is clear grandparents play a vital role in the lives of their grandchildren and the lives of parents.  So it is imperative they have the support of those who can help them as they redefine their roles and make the shift in lifestyle to be there for both their child and grandchild.

For more information on supervised visits and how we can help, contact Side By Side Services at SideBySideServices.ca or 416.518.1569.

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