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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Grandmotherly love...

I am a 65+ year old Grandmother – MeeMaw – is the name that is used to address me. The nickname came from my only biological grandson when he was first learning to use words. Through the years, other children have called me MeeMaw and I have been grateful to add them to my list of grandchildren. Of course, my real grandson is the most special one in my heart, but the others are very loved just as a grandmother would love their grandchildren.

Watching the grandchildren grow and become adults is like watching a budding tree that is grown from the seed of a fruit that began in your body. Our own children are really just experiments and tests of our nurturing ability. We make mistakes, our children have difficulties and as a parent we learn as we go. By the time the children are having children, we have gained some insight, realized what we “should” have done, and most of all mellow out. These little creatures are perfect. How on earth could they be anything else? They are sweet and beautiful – our reward for all the hard work we put into raising their parents.

There’s a saying “If Mom says NO, ask Grandma!” It’s good advice because I believe a grandmother who says NO is a rarity. That’s all well and good while the babes are still babes. There is this phenomenon about babies – they grow up. In just a few years they begin questioning authority and start making decisions on their own. They don’t seek the advice of the grandparent as much. Inevitably, in about 18 or so years they become adults and go off on their own journey.

As a grandparent we strive to make this adulthood transition as easy as possible. Maybe there has been some money set aside for school or just to get them started. Situations often occur that the grandparent was as able to help their children financially as they are their grandchildren. We love them so much and put so much faith and trust into them that we forget that they are actually human with human flaws and temptations. Just like all people, they make bad choices. They get themselves into trouble. And grandparents want to help.

As the grandchildren have matured or aged, so has the grandparent. By the time the grandchild reaches adulthood, the grandparent has made the transition from being an employed individual to being retired and living on a fixed income. There isn’t the money available to help the grandchildren as there had been in the past. But, the grandchildren who may have made those numerous poor decisions are often so secure in getting the grandparent to help that they don’t see that helping themselves is harming the oldster.

Alcoholic or addicted grandchildren seem to take advantage of the grandparent/grandchild relationship. Senior citizens are easier prey when emotions are involved especially when grandparently instincts to “help” take over. People sitting on the sideline observing this shake their heads and say “Why do they do keep throwing good money after bad to those drunks and druggies?” Maybe that’s not the question that should be asked. Maybe the question should be “How can I help this grandparent resist the urge to go bankrupt or being harassed by helping the grandchildren?”

One of the things grandparents long for is being a part of the life of the grandchild. But, it doesn't have to be a grandchild to help fill that void. If you are in the family, consider paying more attention to Granny as a loved one who is not seeking any financial reward. Enlist other family members to become more a part of the grandparents’ life.  If there are a few of you, possibly schedule regularly timely visits. If there is more focus on the non-addicted children, maybe the grandparent will not succumb so quickly to the attention of the addicts.

While visiting, talk about people you know who have been through rehab or are addicted. Get the conversation going and gently let it turn to the abusing grandchildren. I strongly advise NOT to be judgmental or critical of either the addicts or the grandparent. Suggest books (audio books may be best), bring pamphlets and leave them on the coffee table, offer to come over if they feel they are being pressured by the addicted grandchild. Most importantly, reassure the grandparent about what a wonderful job they did in being a grandparent in general. Never tell them or suggest that they are a failure because that just makes them want to try harder to help.

Financially, if the responsible family member has the ability to provide direction to the grandparent, it may be a good idea to ask the grandparent, “How much money can you afford to give to your grandchild to help them get started in life?” The next question should be, “Is there anything you DO NOT want them to do with the money?” or “Would you like them to be restricted to using this money in a certain way?” If the money isn’t available in a lump sum, starting a running accounting journal for each child, each time money is given, write into the journal and make the child SIGN a receipt for the cash. This will be much easier said than done and giving cash to an alcoholic or drug addict means the money never goes for what it is supposed to go for.

Educating the grandparent will probably go farther than helping them set up a cash account. If an alcoholic asks for money for food – give them food instead of cash. If they need transportation, offer them a ride. If they need money for rent, offer to take the money to the rental manager. If they need medical help, offer to assist in filling out the paperwork for Medicaid or some other resource agency. A part of the educating includes had facts about the medical complications of alcoholism. 

Grandparents are not all marshmallows, they’ve had to hear hard facts in the process of getting older – tell them the facts about alcoholism and what it does to the human body. They won’t want those perfect little treasures to be riddled with holes in the brain or yellow/orange skin.

If physical violence is a threat, don’t wait for the grandparent to take action. Call your local Area Agency on Aging and find out how you can protect them.

In a nutshell, in my opinion, the most effective way to stop the insanity of alcoholic/drug addicted children from preying on the people who love them the most – is for the family to get involved and intervene. Grandparents are not weak, they are just clouded by the overwhelming love they have for their future generations. As family members, it is our responsibility to help them see clearly once again.

Of course, there are support groups that may offer some help and comfort – OARS F&F Group is available as well as AlAnon, SmartRecovery and others. But, the best help starts at home.

1 comment:

Therapists Los Angeles said...

I love grandmotherly names like Meemaw. My cousins all call my grandmother Babi because when I was a baby I couldn't pronounce the Hungarian word for grandmother, which is Nudgni.