Dear Grandparenting: My daughter, Torrey, and my three grandkids are just getting by. The stress in her voice is as plain as day over the phone. It sounds like she and the grandkids are always in a near state of emergency when we talk. She got behind on her bills and maxed out a credit card. We can only do so much to help with the money. If we start down that road she’ll keep coming back for more. We are not anyone’s bank.
I cannot really travel any distance anymore. My husband, Leroy, wants to go to Milwaukee to see things for himself after Thanksgiving. Leroy will go riding to the rescue. When he gets there he’ll make darn sure the grandkids are OK and do what else he can to ease their pain. He was always better at talking to Torrey.
Torrey is tough. She is a survivor. I worry so much more about my grandkids. They are still so young. The oldest just started up in middle school. I have heard Torrey screaming at them on the phone when she feels super stressed out. What can we do? People can only take so much stress before they go bonkers. Amelia Rosenberg, St. Louis, Missouri.
Dear Amelia: We receive dozens more like this from anxious grandparents, and for every one that contacts us, there are thousands more who share the same problem. There is pain all across America, families stretched to the point where little things spark domestic explosions. “The more stress a family has, the more likely you are to have child abuse or neglect,” said Theresa Costello, former director of the National Resource Center for Child Protective Services.
When families are running on empty, grandparents are often the first to step up with financial and emotional support. Your husband’s visit is a big step in the right direction. His intervention will help stabilize Torrey and pay dividends down the road, since children take their cue from caregivers. The combination of his presence and your continued attention will help shore up your grandchildren’s insecurities.
Financial gifts require more care and planning. Many grandparents give until it hurts. According to a 2009 Met Life Mature Institute Survey, 63 percent of grandparents provided financial help or monetary gifts to grandchildren during the previous five years. The average sum was $8,661, for an estimated total of $370 billion.
That kind of generosity can return to haunt grandparents who break their budget and risk their own financial security. Since women tend to outlive men, they need to set aside more money. But grandmothers tend to be more generous, even when they cannot afford to be. We advise grandparents to do themselves and their extended family the favor of living within their means, lest they too become a financial burden.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
“Big Blue” from Sidney, Ohio, says people have it all wrong. “TGIF doesn’t stand for Thank God It’s Friday. It stands for This Grandpa Is Fantastic!”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.