Family Conflicts and Other Issues Grandparents May Face


Challenging Times Ahead

Senior woman with arm around granddaughter, kissing forehead, portrait

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No one said that grandparenting would be all fun. Special challenges must be met by step-grandparents, long-distance grandparents and grandparents raising grandchildren. And those are in addition to garden-variety family conflicts and the more serious ones that sometimes result in estrangement

Buckle up. It's a bit of a bumpy ride.


Illness, Death and Divorce in the Family

grandparents can have marital troubles and even get divorced

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 All families go through hard times. Sooner or later all families will experience serious illness or death. Families with rich resources of love and some practical knowledge can negotiate these trying times and come out, if not stronger, at least wiser.

Along with health issues, marital difficulties are a major cause of stress.

Divorce can be highly traumatic, not only for the principals but also for children and even for grandparents. And grandparents aren't immune from marital discord, either.


Get Along in Good Times and Bad

Mother and Daughter

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Why can't we all just get along? Family harmony can be elusive, but each family relationship has its own dynamic. The more you know about particular relationships, the better equipped you'll be to handle misunderstandings.

Learning to see things from the point of view of other family members is key, but good communication skills are vital, too. Grandparents also must realize that their seniority in the family doesn't grant them a license to make decisions for others.


When Family Conflict Becomes Family Estrangement

grandparents need to talk about family estrangement

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It's a secret that many grandparents are hiding. They are estranged from a family member. Even if the grandparents feel that they are not at fault, they usually feel shame. And often there's no easy fix. 

When grandparents are estranged from adult children, they often are cut off from grandchildren, too, and that can be heartbreaking.

In their hearts, they feel they have the right to see their grandchildren, but the law doesn't always agree.


When Grandparents Are Caregivers

grandparents will need to keep some essential kid supplies at grandparent's house

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Many grandparents today provide child care for their grandchildren. Sometimes they are occasional babysitters, and sometimes they provide regular care for working parents. There are issues to consider before making a commitment to be a child care provider, as well as hints to make those occasional babysitting gigs go more smoothly.

Some grandparents are sharing housing with their children and grandchildren. By so doing, they may save money. In addition, family members can cooperate to provide child care and eldercare. But with three or more generations under one roof, an occasional squabble may be inevitable.

For some grandparents, taking care of grandchildren isn't a part-time gig.

Statistics suggest that grandparents are raising grandchildren in ever-growing numbers.

Legal issues and financial strain top the list of hot issues for this group, but the emotional health and social needs of both the grandparents and grandchildren must also be considered.


Other Special Challenges Grandparents Face

video chats with grandchildren via skype are treasured by many long-distance grandparents

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With many families separated by hundreds and even thousands of miles, the maintaining of close family relationships can be problematic. Thank goodness for technology, which allows many long-distance grandparents to remain close to their grandchildren in spite of the miles.

Many grandparents are also step-grandparents, mostly because they have an adult child who is a step-parent. Although tons of grandchildren have great relationships with their step-grandparents, the grandparenting role can be a little different.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. HuffPost. When grandparents divorce.

  2. University of Delaware. Communication skills for your family.

  3. Next Avenue. Maintaining a relationship with grandkids among estrangement.

  4. National Community Reinvestment Coalition. Grandparents: A renewed role as parents to grandchildren.

  5. Healthy Women. 10 ways to connect with long-distance grandparents.

By Susan Adcox
Susan Adcox is a writer covering grandparenting and author of Stories From My Grandparent: An Heirloom Journal for Your Grandchild.